DISCUSSION – A Vision for Science and Society : influencing the government’s new consultation paper

Ruth Wilson

Ruth Wilson, Resources and Partnerships Coordinator Services for Women Team, UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology

My Thoughts

Wow! This was a major discussion, people brought up a lot of points on getting women into computer-based jobs, on the problems of the workplace and several other topics. A lot of notes for this – it’s anonymous, although I noted the few times men brought something up (and no, I had nothing to add obviously 🙂 ).


UKRC (UK Resource Centre for Women in science, engineering and technology) concerns for women in science, engineering and technology – very low percents of women workers. There is also regional variation, an on-going loss of qualified women, concentration in certain sectors and concentration in low-income grades.

Need to outreach to women who also face additional barriers – age, location, race, ethnicity, disability, poverty, limited education and lack of support. Access is not enough – internet access for instance. A big digital divide.

Some events – actually some in Second Life (which she wasn’t very good at, sitting on a man and getting stuck and is now in charge of it 🙂 ). Consultation dates too.

Some discussion points on making science relevant to women – some theories on putting forward the science of things related to families and the home. Some think the increasing military aspect turns them off science. Some think nothing in science needs to change since it is already relevant.

Also, not just gender but agism is a problem.

How about getting women into SET? (Science, engineering, technology)
Offer any women on a career break the chance to train for SET
Offer students more help
Offer evening classes in SET, to explore without committing
Help for women with children and families.


What do you think is stopping women getting to the top?
Some getting to the top but not to the top of specific areas. Personally (she) had more soft skills so the technical side got abandoned and more pushed towards management.
They encourage you for the soft skills but no payback for it! Also some people see the younger people getting promoted.
But getting into management is a good thing – can hire more women, more influence in the organisation.

Should start with the idea that the undercurrent of sexism still exists. Should make it evolve. Most men are not aware of being sexist. Having gender awareness.

(Man) Personal experience of management is of men overplaying their skills and achievements, while women underplay their skills and achievements.

Part of the problem is the underlying sexism, but as far as they are concerned they’d got the business decision. Maternity leave, keeping the job open, and so on. Child Sugar probably said no small business would hire a women of childbaring age. They see it as a problem, nevermind if it is illegal. Might not even consciously do it.

However, some studies say that the women who have children will work harder to retain the job that is the exact opposite. The assumptions are very misleading. It’s not fair to keep them out of the workplace with that concern.

Confidence thing sometimes, where the management see them and where the women see themselves. Perhaps having a female overseer of it is better for confidence.

Fashion of dumbing down rather then be intellectual – the TV! Terrible things, like reading the headlines of The Sun newspaper!

Picking up on the confidence issue – current management skills. The managers needs the skills, and confidence to bring them out of their shells. Management culture needs to change everywhere.

The word “Scary” brought up by a female journalist – said “you look really normal!” when being interviewed at Rare. All up to your skills, not going down into a mine or anything. If there could be ways of showing younger women where they sit and interviewing male colleagues – so they can show it’s not scary.

For the SET problem need decent science teaching in school. Used to have things on Tomorrows World and Horizon, Horizon is now rubbish (one point per program, dumbed down!), so need TV to improve. Facilitating male maternity leave (paternity leave) and changing management practices will be important.

Side point, the presenters boy’s favourite science show is Top Gear.

One problem was women saying they are fine since they are happy. Need to value themselves – men ask for higher salaries, while women take the first offer. The monetary value put on your work is important. You have to get people to say “go for it”.

The Mayor or London’s office did a look at pay paths. Women go in for a realistic one, and get it. Men go for unrealistic amounts, and get a lower offer, but in the end up with a £300,000 different. Only when women get to the higher echelons wear skirts and become more feminine.

Women need to overcome the stereotypes themselves – I wear trousers, they’re comfortable!

Being evangelical and communicative of your job to others. A stereotype to not communicate when you’re in an IT/programming job. Need these communication skills to convince other people how empowering it is. Digital space allows you also you position yourself as a man, women or anything in between – which is a great freedom. A lot of potential in technology to lose the physical problems of appearance.

SET people come from a SET background, but computer games people don’t always come from a computer games background.

Back to the money problem – it’s not just about negotiations. Possibly women are not undervalued, since the inherent sexism when men make the offer. Sometimes the difference of wearing a skirt is a problem – break the stereotypes so dressing in a more male way is a smart choice sometimes. Far too much stereotyping – “Lets make it pink” throttle someone.

(Man, abheit long haired, accidentally called a woman!) Would love to see Jagex’s office, a lot of stereotypes – the image is important of the industry and courses! The 80/20 male/female, the degrees are a big problem at the initial stages, since even the men have poor degrees, even though females don’t have any degree related to it (so are at a disadvantage).

Paternity leave – create it, no difference. Need to take the leave, will make a huge difference. “seen as soft” if you take it. Need to get them to take it (no idea how to though). Some women didn’t want to be advocates, they wanted to be different or seen as liberal women lovers. An interesting observation.

Men can also be role models to women too.

The “Scariness” – a question for a QA position, last question (from 3 men) is “Are you scared about going into a male dominated workplace?” – a problem that mentality. Several others commented of course they are not scared! They were already in the minority anyway, even if it was a valid question in the first place.

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