Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor calls for international action to be taken in order to achieve equal opportunities for women in STEM careers

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor at Swansea University, recently called for more to be done to a achieve a world of equal opportunities for girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers, during a TEDx talk held at Swansea’s Grand Theatre.

Professor Hilary Lappin-ScottProfessor Lappin-Scott (pictuerd left) is Vice-President of the prestigious Federation of European Microbiological Society (FEMS), a scientific body which promotes microbiology at a European level, and was recently awarded a Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. Professor Lappin-Scott is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the Royal Society of Biology and the European Academy of Microbiology.

During her global research work she has seen first-hand how the world is drastically short of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals.

Professor Lappin-Scott, explained: “As a research scientist and former President of two national and international learned societies, I have noticed something in my global work and travels. That is, in the UK and many other countries, we are drastically short of people skilled in the STEM areas, and very short of skilled women. Women in STEM careers are paid less than men and tend to hold lower grade positions, with men more frequently occupying leadership roles.

“There is now compelling evidence that organisations that have diverse senior teams, in top international businesses, for example, outperform those that do not. People from different socio-economic backgrounds, gender, ethnicity etc. frequently bring a different perspective and fresh thinking, beyond having decision makers from one gender, age range, school background and culture.”

‌‌‌‌‌Professor Lappin-Scott also highlighted the findings of a recent report she co-authored, commissioned by the Welsh Government. Published on International Women’s Day, the report, entitled, Talented Women for a Successful Wales, aims to find ways to encourage more girls and women in Wales to study STEM subjects.

The key recommendations of the report include:

  • Teachers with more science skills to enthuse both boys and girls
  • Stronger links around STEM, between schools, colleges and the business community
  • Regular access to female role models already working in STEM careers
  • Challenge gender stereotypes at home, school and in the workplace
  • Improve the relevance and focus of career information
  • ‘Keeping in touch’ strategies, mentoring and agile working for returning mothers
  • Confronting unconscious bias affecting selection and career progression
  • Removing the gender pay gap
  • Increasing female representation at all levels of academia, industry and commerce – 50:50 by 2020

During the talk, Professor Lappin-Scott also stressed the importance of equality and diversity, urging audience members to celebrating women in STEM by joining events such as International Women’s Day, Ada Lovelace Day, and Soapbox Science events - an outreach platform for promoting women scientists and their research.

Steven Stokes, TEDxSwansea Lead Oragniser, said: "Hilary is passionate about encouraging girls and women to take up STEM careers and this was clearly evident during her talk. Not only did she highlight how more women in STEM would help with the current skills shortage but she also offered innovative ways in which people and organisations can encourage more girls to undertake STEM courses at a higher level and gain good exciting jobs in the various available fields. There has already been a huge amount of online interest in Hilary's talk and I can see her ideas having an international impact once her TEDxSwansea talk is online." 

Read the Talented Women for a Successful Wales report in full here.