Reflections on the “Inquiry into Equity in the STEM Workforce” report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on diversity and inclusion in STEM was set up in 2018 by a group of MPs and Lords, with a mandate to explore policy changes that will lead to more inclusion and diversity within STEM education and workforce. The group, chaired by Chi Onwurah (MP Newcastle Upon Tyne), has conducted two inquiries for which it has produced separate but related reports titled: “Equity in STEM education” (2020) and “Equity in STEM workforce” (2021).
Drawing from existing appraisals of funding agencies across the country, including a 2019 appraisal by TIGERS, the report highlights some of the unequal outcomes that exist within the STEM workforce, from aggregated equality monitoring data provided by funding agencies such as UKRI. Lack of granularity in data gathering and intersectional barriers were singled out as factors that may limit the effectiveness of policies aimed at addressing the underfunding of marginalised groups, including women, minoritised ethnic groups, people living with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ workforce in STEM research. In addition, it notes that socio-economic status, while often treated as irrelevant to EDI, intersects in significant ways with other characteristics, further entrenching the exclusion of marginalised groups.
The report made a number of useful recommendations, including the granularisation of equality monitoring data, so that interventions can be more effective; for instance, by decoupling the BAME acronym, which may mask the underrepresentation of particular ethnicities. Crucially, it also proposes that socio-economic status be added to the list of protected characteristics due to the overrepresentation of people from privileged backgrounds in the STEM workforce. While these propositions are welcome, there are also aspects of the propositions that can be refined. For instance, the call to push business and industry out of the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London can be accompanied with clear criteria for targeting new locations for investments, and these criteria should account for the socioeconomic health of the target locations up to local council level.
The full report, along with all the key recommendations can be downloaded here.
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[This post was Idris Ajia.]