Strathclyde to lead science and engineering equality programme

10 August 2018 15:48 - BAM Nuttall Ltd
Strathclyde to lead science and engineering equality programme

(Press release University of Strathclyde:) Glasgow, 9 August 2018 - A programme for enhancing equality and diversity in science and engineering at universities is to be led by the University of Strathclyde.

Strathclyde is joined by construction firm BAM Nuttall Ltd and the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering in the project, STEM Equals, which will address challenges faced by female and LGBT staff in science and engineering.

The programme will develop a range of initiatives, including:

  • introduction of free flexible crèche facilities for staff to attend key research meetings while on leave
  • workshops with key industry partners to disseminate successful activities and share best practice
  • establishment of public and private social media platforms for female and LGBT staff within the University.

STEM Equals has received funding of £538,568 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It is one of 11 projects to have received grants from EPSRC as part of its Inclusion Matters funding round, announced today.

STEM Equals is being led by Strathclyde Vice-Principal Professor Scott MacGregor and the programme director is Professor Rebecca Lunn MBE, of the University’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.   

Professor Lunn said: ‘There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that women are discriminated against in Universities, and that the problem is particularly persistent across engineering and the sciences. For example, in 2012, a study was published where applications that had been randomly assigned a male or female name were rated for a Physics laboratory manager position. Recruitment panels rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the identical female applicant. The experiences of LGBT staff in science and engineering are less well-studied, but it is widely recognised that the numbers of ‘out’ senior academic staff are vanishingly small. The STEM Equals project also aims to deliver a fresh approach to University management; decades-old practice within UK Universities has led to a severe lack of senior women. Current promotion criteria are modelled on full-time male academics that have taken no periods of carer or family leave. This lack of senior diversity is not in the UK’s best interest; Universities should be promoting the top strategic thinkers and the most talented/innovative researchers, regardless of their career path.’

Define excellence

‘Research on the STEM Equals Project will ‘peel-back’ over time the CVs of volunteer senior female academics from across the UK, to define excellence at each stage in their career, and hence to develop alternative promotion criteria, more appropriate to academics that have had periods of leave or part-time working.’

Strathclyde is also a partner in a second project, VisNET (Virtual in situ networking), which aims to reinvent the rules of international collaborations and reduce gender differences in academic careers.  

Dr Alison Wall, EPSRC’s Associate Director, Building Leadership, said: ‘The Inclusion Matters call projects display ambition, creativity and a commitment to addressing the pressing equality and diversity issues facing engineering and the physical sciences. Through new research, innovative approaches and a broadening of activities, they will inform and shape significant cultural change across institutions and share their learning with the whole sector. By furthering equality, diversity and inclusion we want to ensure that researchers from all groups are able to fulfil their talent and ambitions.’

Professor Jennifer Rubin, UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Executive Champion for equality, diversity and inclusion, said: ‘UK Research and Innovation is committed to furthering equality, diversity and inclusion for both our staff and for the research and innovation sector more widely. The Inclusion Matters initiative illustrates the ambitious, evidence-based approach that we will take across UKRI to strengthen equality, diversity and inclusion across the sector.’