Challenges and Progress for Diversity in Science and Engineering

In Cardiff this week four motivational speakers shared from their experiences to give insights into the value of diversity in the science and engineering research communities. The event was an opportunity to highlight issues, consolidate ideas and inspire people to take action to address inequality.

The event was chaired by Dr. Emma Hayhurst, a NRN-LCEE Returning Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the University of South Wales. Emma started the evening with a passionate and practical account of her career. It turned out that many of the big issues highlighted by Emma were to crop up in various guises during the rest of the evening.Dr Emma Hayhurst, NRN-LCEE Returning Fellow at the University of South Wales, chaired the eventDr Emma Hayhurst, NRN-LCEE Returning Fellow at the University of South Wales, chaired the event

Prof. Karen Holford, Deputy VC at Cardiff University, gave a clear overview of the facts related to gender equality in education and debunked some of the myths surrounding the inclusion and performance of women in STEM subjects. It was evident from her presentation that the often cited and perceived differences between the performance of men and women are outdated or unfounded. Karen presented data that shows women outperform men in STEM subjects at all levels of education, and that gender balance significantly improves organisational performance on many levels.

Dr. Mark Richards, Departmental Head of Outreach at Imperial College London, gave a compelling account on the different ways to engage young people from minority backgrounds with STEM and discussed the significant impact that role models can have. It was clear that involving young people with real research; allowing them to contribute to something substantial with wider societal relevance, was a key factor in igniting enthusiasm for STEM.

Prof. Laura McAllister, Professor of Public Policy at Cardiff University, shared from her experiences in governance and sports, where diversity has consistently proven to be a positive factor contributing to better leadership and engagement. Laura pointed out some of the subtle (and not so subtle) ways in which inequality is accepted and tolerated within organisations and leadership roles. She then gave examples of alternative ways of governance that can address such issues. Her presentation ended by stressing the considerable opportunities there are for role models and mentors to make a difference, and how vital it is for people to step forward to inspire both inside and outside the workplace.

Prof. Shareen Doak from Swansea University gave a powerful account on the challenges she has faced while developing her highly successful international research career. Shareen elaborated on how she has overcome limitations and created opportunities with support from a diverse range of mentors and friends, while building a family and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.All speakers answered questions from the audience during an engaging panel discussionAll speakers answered questions from the audience during an engaging panel discussion

The event was organised jointly by the 3 Sêr Cymru National Research Networks for Advanced Engineering and New Materials; for Life Sciences and Health; and for Low Carbon Energy and Environment. The intention was that the event would motivate attendees to address wide-ranging challenges regarding diversity and inclusion for STEM careers. There was no doubt at the end of the evening that the enthusiastic audience and speakers were inspired.

The presentations by Emma, Karen, Mark and Laura were recorded and will be available on our website and YouTube channel soon.

Publication date: 30 November 2017