Gender is off the agenda

January 13, 2011

While science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects have been ring-fenced and are being protected by the coalition government, it is clear that gender equality in STEM subjects does not have a high priority.

The announcement before Christmas from Vince Cable, the business secretary, and David Willetts, the universities and science minister, that they will stop funding the UKRC from March 2011 is a huge blow to gender equality. The UKRC was set up in 2004 as a response to the Greenfield report that identified the barriers facing girls and women entering and progressing in STEM subjects. Good progress has been made - but the work is far from finished. One might think that by now we would have made the case to tackle the under-representation of girls and women in subjects that are vital for the future of the economy.

As someone who works to widen access to STEM subjects at university, in particular for girls, who are severely under-represented in some areas, I feel betrayed on many accounts. Widening participation outreach will have to be fought for all over again from scratch. I thought gender equality had been taken on board - but clearly the dismantling of everything to do with equality in STEM indicates we are not all in this together.

Pat Morton, Director, Women in SET, Sheffield Hallam University.

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