Tapping All Our Talents Review 2018

Our latest blog is a guest post from Professor Lesley Yellowlees, the Chair of the Tapping All Our Talents Review 2018: Women in STEM Review Group.

In 2012, the Royal Society of Edinburgh published Tapping All Our Talents, highlighting the stark finding that only 27% of women STEM graduates were going on to STEM careers. As then both Head of the University of Edinburgh’s College of Science and Engineering and President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, I had a clear picture of the colossal loss of skills and talent that figure represented.

In the years since, I’ve been encouraged to see the issues of gender equality and the gender pay gap, long close to my heart, become more mainstream. Political awareness has never been higher. Genuine attempts have been made, through legislation and policies, to address some of the barriers that women face to building successful STEM careers.

In Scotland’s universities, Athena SWAN has driven a real shift across research departments towards better understanding of the processes and cultures that propagate gender inequality. It has supported both employers and researchers to challenge norms and to beware of unconscious bias. There is a welcome sense of determination and creativity to find flexible solutions to the demands of balancing flourishing careers with growing families.

But the obvious question is, has that figure of 27% improved since 2012? Do those women who continue their STEM careers now have more equal opportunities to progress to senior levels? And do they receive the same rewards as their male counterparts?

I was delighted to be asked by the RSE and the Young Academy of Scotland to Chair a review of Tapping All Our Talents, and the progress that has (or hasn’t) been made since. Working with a strong Review Group, including Professors Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Alice Brown who led the 2012 report, we recently launched an open consultation into the experiences of women in STEM in Scotland.

I look forward to hearing from those studying or working in STEM – in academia, industry or elsewhere – on the realities faced in 2018, the actions that are having a positive impact on gender equality, and what remains to be done.

I suspect there is a great deal of progress to be made. In my own area, recent figures from the Royal Society of Chemistry indicate that while women make up 44% of chemistry undergraduates in the UK, they account for only 9% of professors. Clearly this indicates that the ‘leaky pipeline’ of STEM skills is far from being fixed.

Please do visit the RSE website for details of the Tapping All Our Talents Review 2018 and how to get involved. I would love to hear from you.