London Assembly Education Panel meeting on tackling Gender Inequality in STEM

at London Assembly Education Panel

London Assembly Education Panel meeting on tackling Gender Inequality gap in STEM took place on Monday, 24 February 2020 in The Chamber, City Hall London. Members were Jennette Arnold OBE (Chair) ; Tony Arbour; Susan Hall; David Kurten; Fiona Twycross Committee Officer: Lamide Odanye

The meeting was open to public with invited guests and video record available on London Assembly Page

Gender Inequality in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)

The panel had a focus about these questions:

 What are the likely repercussions for London’s workforce, economy and infrastructure if these inequalities are not corrected?  How can career guidance services be improved to increase the number of young girls and women pursuing careers in STEM?  How do the Mayor’s policies tackle the underlying causes for Gender Inequality in STEM, specifically, the stereotypes that exist at the school level?

The purpose of this meeting was to ascertain the underlying reasons for gender inequalities in STEM and learn what the Mayor can do to reduce the skills gap that exists in STEM professions.

STEM Inequality

STEM is a fast-growing sector, with employment in STEM growing by 6.3 per cent between 2017 and 2018 which is more than six times that of employment overall in the United Kingdom. While girls continue to outperform boys in most STEM subjects at the GCSE level, they are still underrepresented in the uptake of STEM subjects at different levels of education and at apprenticeship level.

STEM Inequality Panel

A question and answer session was held with invited guests: (L-R):

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO and co-founder of Stemettes ; Bukola Thompson, Software Developer, YouLend; Chimene Peddie, Head of Enterprise, Hornsey School for Girls; Staynton Brown, Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Talent, Transport for London; Dr Julie Moote, Senior Research Fellow, ASPIRES, UCL Institute of Education

DISCUSSION
Key points from the discussion were as follows;

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE: Innovation is stifled by lack of diversity and for the last 7 years, Stemettes has been bringing girls together with the purpose of bridging the gender gap. This has been done with use of role models in Industry to raise awareness of options in changing environment. Also use of Cohort programmes over a series of months to build confidence and knowledge.
Issues faced:
STEM trips are not available.
Qualification issues and lack of resources.
Supplementary spaces needed for lifelong learning.

Bukola Thompson:
The stereotype of subject affects career aspirations.
We need to change the perception of what scientists look like.
We have to tackle the racial barriers being experienced in educational institutions.

Chimene Peddie:
Limited stories of women available for inspiration and role models.
Teachers need more information and guidance, since the Curriculum issue affects education system.
Career skillsets need to be on Agenda, while material and info on routes to Jobs are inadequate.

Staynton Brown
Challenge is about changing perception.
Using outreach programs, visit schools and innovative challenge.
Skills gap needs to be tackled to address bias from the design and job perspective.

Dr Julie Moote
Gender race plus social and inequality practices.
There are multiple and complex issues, which are inter-connected.
Educational system level and culture needed to change, with a systems approach advocated.
Teachers practice and career education is an issue, with support needed for teachers and schools.

ROUNDUP:
This stage was set for a dialogue between the LA Assembly Panel and the invited guests (Panel)
Consequence of Inequalities: The economic argument and approach is not enough so will need use of an advocacy approach. The Reliance on technology leads to bias in coding which affects products used in the public domain. e.g. Leads to Policing stereotype.

RECOMMENDATION:
1] Bukola explained that Black WomeninTech groups were actively working to demystify and change the gender sterotypes. She advocated for collaboration and support from GLA. She gave an example of work by Witty Careers and Codebar.
2] Chimene asked to integrate the different packages. e.g. for GLA to collate and have a Menu on offer, to help with signposting resources.
3] Dr Anne Marie drew on her extensive experience in the education sector and dialogue with GLA, to focus on the shortcomings of the inherent system which provided a surplus to Further Education budget (16+ Age).
The gender equality gap occurs in early stages (-10 Age), however there is no GLA funding support for these and the consequent support for extra-curriculum activities provided by empowered community groups.

Chair of the London Assembly Education Panel, Jennette Arnold OBE, expanded on the views held by Dr Anne Marie. The Panel would pass on recommendations to the GLA Deputy Mayor for Education about the clear and apparent need for policy and funding changes, with a focus on Early Years. She then summarised and drew the meeting to a close.

LBAcademy is a UK Business Growth Hub that provides digital skill and talent training to Tech & Creative Startups for high growth.

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