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Report Calls for Action to Tackle Discrimination Faced by Women in STEM

Ross Kelly

,

Equate Scotland

A report has shed light on the extent of inequality still faced by women who work in STEM-related professions across Scotland.

Equate Scotland has published the findings of a new report looking at the experiences of more than 400 women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) professions.

The report suggests that urgent action is required to address the issue of inequality in male-dominated workplaces, and provides recommendations on what education providers, employers and government can do to create positive change.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds (60%) of respondents had experienced sexism in the workplace or in their place of educations. Similarly, one-in-three women do not feel confident in reporting experiences of exclusion or discrimination to their employers.

Half of LGBT women agreed they do not feel confident in reporting these issues, while more than half of disabled and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women also experienced the same issue.

In breaking down responses to provide an intersectional analysis, the Equate Scotland report is also the first of its kind; highlighting what women from BME backgrounds, disabled women, LGBT women and women with care responsibilities experience across STEM.

Equate Scotland said this has helped to create a clearer understanding of experiences and identify those who experience overlapping inequalities in both society and the workplace.

Commenting on the report findings, Talat Yaqoob, Director of Equate Scotland, said: “This report is groundbreaking as it has disaggregated the data to give us a more accurate understanding of women’s experiences. By analysing it in this way, we are able to illustrate the often hidden realities for women who experience multiple discriminations.

“Our report reveals the extent of inequality faced by BME women, disabled women, LGBT women and women with caring responsibilities.”

Yaqoob added that the report is a “call for action” to improve workplace practices – especially given the current environment.

She said: “With the current Covid-19 crisis, science and technology has never been more important, to respond adequately we need the best minds working in these sectors; that is why we must tackle all and any inequalities that act as a barrier to women’s participation.”

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Around 64% of respondents said they do not feel enough is being done to create inclusive workplaces or education institutions at present. More than 80% of BME women and LGBT women who participated in the survey highlighted this problem and 90% of disabled women agree that not enough is being done to promote inclusive workplaces.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters (74%) of women with caring responsibilities also experience the same in this regard.

Mavis Amadi, a member of the Equate Scotland steering committee and a chartered engineer, said; “I welcome this report and the important insights it provides into the workplace experience for so many women. As a woman, a mother and a migrant, I have experienced inequality across these different parts of my identity, but I also know lots of employers are trying to change and create better working environments.”

Recommendations from the report include increasing the collection of data that may help influence or better-inform policymaking at a national level. Similarly, for women with care responsibilities, the provision of affordable or flexible childcare should be a key priority. ]

“Both the Scottish Government’s Gender Pat Gap Action Plan and the First Minister’s Advisory Council have recommended/stated the need for disaggregated intersectional data to better understand women’s inequality in Scotland and create policy that improves their lives,” the report states.

“This report reaffirms those recommendations with a call for intersectional analysis and data to become the norm in Scotland,” it adds.

Training schemes focusing on diversity and inclusion should also be an area which businesses and educational institutions prioritise moving forward.

“Women who completed our survey emphasised the need for education on equality, diversity and inclusion in different areas across society from schools to higher education institutions, including industry and the public sector, to create social change that permeates into the workplace,” the report explains.

Reacting to the report publication, ScotlandIS Chief Executive Jane Morrison-Ross said: “The recent report by Equate Scotland highlights the need to break down barriers that exist and drive inclusivity and diversity in all of their forms across the business landscape.

“We hope that with the empirical data available, showing the benefits of an inclusive workforce and Board will continue to encourage the adoption of working practices to drive this change.”

Morrison-Ross added: “We are fully supportive of the need to create truly inclusive and diverse workplaces and have been working with partners across industry for a number of years to this effect.

“The work of the Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together group, led by Skills Development Scotland is already beginning to show a decrease in the gender gap within technology-led businesses, but of course, there is always more work to be done.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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