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Push to increase women in science

Published: 17 Sep 2015 10:30
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Action to encourage gender balance at all levels as new science advisers sought.

Universities are being urged to join the push to get more women into all of levels of science, Education Secretary Angela Constance said today.

While meeting with leaders in the science engagement sector Ms Constance also announced plans for the recruitment of a new Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) for Scotland and members to the prestigious Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC).

The Scottish Government will work with key stakeholders to review the CSA role to consider how to get the maximum value from this role and to make sure the post attracts a broad field of candidates.

The science engagement sector – led by Scotland's four Science Centres and numerous festivals – appears to have a better record in gender balance than other scientific areas and the Cabinet Secretary met those involved to see what lessons could be learned.

Ms Constance said:

"Scotland is a world leader in science and technology and our continued investment in support for STEM teaching, learning and skills development at school, college, university and beyond is paying off with increased Higher entrants and passes in these subjects. But we need to do more to counter the historic gender imbalance.

"Women remain under-represented in much of the science, technology and engineering sector, but there is a key area that has made progress in achieving a better gender balance. Earlier today I met some of the inspirational women who are leading many of our science centres and science festivals to hear their views on how they have succeeded and what more we can all do to promote STEM as a potential area of study and work for girls and young women.

"I have agreed that we will work together on an action plan to ensure more can be done on such a key issue. Such a plan will clearly benefit from their expertise and I am very grateful for their input.

"Having women in senior, visible roles help to show girls and young women that choosing science can open up a range of career possibilities. That is why it is so important to appeal to a wide range of experts as scientific advisers to government.

"I am writing to all university Principals and the Presidents of our learned societies to encourage them to work with us to ensure we recruit a new Chief Scientific Adviser that will deliver for Scotland. This critical role will reflect our commitment to drawing on the very best scientific advice and expertise.

"We will also soon advertise for new members of our highest level group of independent science advisers – the SSAC. It has the potential to add real value in all policy areas connected to science, and the SSAC will also keep Ministers informed about new technologies and other scientific developments.

"I am keen to see a diverse pool of potential candidates for the SSAC and the CSA post. If we are to continue to be a leading science nation we need to have all our talent contributing to public life. But we also need to make sure that we enable talented girls and young women to pursue their goals."

Notes to editors

Ms Constance met the following women in science engagement today:

Dr Hermione Cockburn, Scientific Director, Our Dynamic Earth
Dee Davison, Dunbar SciFest co-ordinator
Aileen Hamilton, Director, Science Connects
Dr Evelyn Gray, University of the Highlands and Islands and co-ordinator of Inverness Science Festival
Liz Hodge, CEO, Aberdeen Science Centre (Satrosphere)
Dr Sharon Macnab, Partnerships Manager, Glasgow Science Centre
Dr Deborah McNeill, Director, Glasgow Science Festival

Following consultation with stakeholders this autumn, the post of CSA Scotland will be re-advertised by the end of the year. In the meantime, the remaining Chief Scientists, covering Health and Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, will continue to carry out key tasks that would usually be done by the CSA Scotland. Advertisements for new SSAC members will appear next month.

Scottish Government funding for science engagement in 2015-16 includes £2.75m for the four Scottish science centres, and £239,000 for 16 science festivals.