Our second meeting was on Tuesday 26 June. Below is a summary of the speeches and points from the attendees.

Naomi Weir, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE)

Diversity in STEM is a key area of work for CaSE and we've recently written a short report on the topic. 

Our focus is on what government and policy makers can do on diversity and inclusion. We've focused on two areas:

National Careers Strategy

Those that are underrepresented in STEM are also less likely to have adequate careers support. We explored ways that government can support schools to provide better advice to young people.

The Government published a careers strategy in December, which has a few good things around diversity, including funding to train career leaders in 500 schools in deprived areas. The problem is that in many schools there are no resources to free up someone’s time to be a career leader. To fund one teacher to spend a quarter of their time working on careers would require around £40m to be added to the schools budget.

We need the government to emphasise case studies of diverse STEM role models and career pathways.

And there needs to be a focus on increasing diversity in the STEM Ambassadors programme so that young people see role models that are like them.

Data collection

The Government should coordinate the collection of diversity data across all its work in STEM.

Around 9% of engineers are women and only 4-5% of engineering apprentices are women, so the problem is going to get worse. Government should mandate the Institute of Apprenticeships to embed diversity monitoring to make sure we’re improving things across multiple characteristics.

UKRI should also be standardising its data collection, including publishing the number of studentships and fellowships which are held on a part-time basis.

Funding should be provided within the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for research into diversity in STEM, to see what works and what can be scaled. This is being done with huge grants in the US, through the NSF Includes programme.

Elaine Morley, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

UKRI is exploring diversity and inclusion because of the societal and economic imperative. A diversity of ideas, cultures and people are required to improve innovation.

UKRI has commissioned new analysis and research into what data is being collected by the individual Research Councils, with the aim of harmonising data collection.

We also have an external Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Goup to identify opportunities to improve diversity and inclusion across the sector. We want to embed diversity and inclusion at all levels, to create a culture that encourages and facilitates this, and look at what interventions work and don’t work. We’re also collaborating internationally to create change.

We’re launching a fund called Inclusion Matters – managed by EPSRC – to support approaches to tackling culture change. One of the projects is looking specifically at the physical sciences, which are particularly gendered.

Innovate UK also has the Women in Innovation Scheme, which will provide eight women with £50k each of funding plus mentoring from business leaders.

Our Research Excellence Framework team are working with our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group to measure and take account of the diversity characteristics of decision-making panels. We have a minimum target for 40% women on all our advisory panels.

We’re also funding graduates to experience doctoral research before starting a PhD.

There are many opportunities to make a change on Diversity and Inclusion and we’re ambitious about what we can do.

Nike Folayan, Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE)

25% of engineering graduates are from ethnic minority backgrounds, but only 6% of UK engineers are. That means that BAME engineering graduates are not transitioning into the workplace, and we need to find out why.

AFBE was established in 2007. At that time, there was a huge amount of gun crime in London and a Minister said that black culture was responsible for this. We now work across the UK with hubs in Scotland and Nottingham and aim to increase the number of BAME people considering engineering.

When I looked at the Industrial Strategy, I saw lots of discussion of innovation and there were bits about BAME and gender balance, but the Strategy and the Government’s approach as a whole need more detail about how innovation and diversity are linked.

Everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging. We need to start early if we’re going to get BME people into engineering – we need to start at nursery. Everyone’s talking about outreach but are excluding nursery and primary school.

Our transition programme works with young people to explore engineering careers and has to date had 70% of attendees in employment within 12 months post-graduation.

Our programme Making Engineering Hot uses role models to bring engineering careers to life for students between 12 and 18 years old. We are is always seeking new volunteers to mentor young people and at the moment we are working in Hackney, Newham and Southwark.

We also need to raise awareness by engaging with volunteer groups that are interested in the topics.

Monitoring and measurement are also important. When we talk about diversity we need data. For example, we don’t know the proportion of BAME women working in engineering because we don’t have the data. The Royal Academy of Engineering is doing research into this but there needs to be more into not just BAME but also intersectionality.

What about league tables for diversity measurement? Lots of engineering companies work hard to get these badges for various things, perhaps we could incentivise them to work harder on diversity if we had a set of badges for them to achieve.

Diversity and Inclusion need to be dealt with by the leaders of these organisations. We need to stop seeing it as a HR issue and start seeing it as something that everyone is responsible for.

Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation

Before I worked in Parliament I worked in business, rolling out networks all across the world for 17 years. During this time, I had the opportunity to view a number of different business cultures. Almost without fail, I was the only person in the room that was a woman, a person of colour, or a Notherner.

When I joined the shadow cabinet, making diversity and inclusion a part of Labour’s strategy was always part of my mission. Our work in this area is based on the work of Mariana Mazzucato, who is an expert in economics and innovation. She says that science and innovation have a direction as well as a speed, and we want to make that direction more inclusive.

One of the first missions we announced was to get 60% of our nation’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Next, we want to create an Innovation Nation. We want to democratise STEM so that it becomes a fundamental part of our culture for everyone.

We want to see research and development investment to rise from 1.7% of GDP to 3%.

And we want Diversity and Inclusion to be seen as an economic imperative.

Two major policies also impact diversity and inclusion in STEM:

  • A National Education Service will make education free at the point of use for everyone, for their whole lives. This will resolve some issues in STEM diversity because people struggle to go back to education later in life.
  • Sector Diversity Challenges – for every sector, we will require that they produce a diversity charter that sets out what the diversity situation is and how they’re going to change it. This is modelled on the Women in Finance Charter. The first of these is in the creative industries and is fronted by Lenny Henry. The charters will be backed up by legislation that creatives incentives and fines for poor behaviour.

We need to make sure that we have prosperity and that it’s shared across the regions, the classes, groups of all backgrounds.

 Questions and answers


  • We need to know which industries these problems are in before we can fix them
  • We need data so we can understand where the problems lie and where they need to be addressed.
  • Organisations worry about collecting data – does it match up to a centralized way of recording and comparing; what about data privacy laws?
  • We also need to consider how we can improve response rates to diversity questionnaires/surveys.

Leadership and funding:

  • Change should be top down as well as bottom up – we need industry and government to make these changes.
  • Institutions are too autonomous – they rely on funding, so we need funding to direct their behaviour.
  • There has been a drop off in part time courses due to funding changes. The government needs to look at this, and the APPG could reiterate this point.
  • People need to feel like they can go back into education so that they can change careers – without part time courses we risk losing this.
  • We shouldn’t be replicating work – we should use schemes like Athena Swan to develop our work, rather than doing something new.
  • Although we should look at the work that’s come before, we should also be able to move with the times.
  • UKRI are looking at making diversity a prerequisite for funding and potentially using Athena Swan to do this. But, we need culture change, as well as tick-box exercises.
  • It’s really important to have sector champions to build, develop, publicise and promote diversity in different sectors.
  • In the US a lot of money is put into diversity – we need to do the same if we want to make a real difference.


  • How will AI bias affect diversity in industry in the future? We need to legislate for the future to ensure that this potential bias is eliminated.
  • There is a problem of industry selecting students from top universities – the counter argument is that actually we need to diversify the whole university sector.
  • Even if you went to a Russell group university you may still not get opportunities if you are a minority. Cultural issues are also a problem – certain groups may be more prepared for interviews than others.
  • The problem with recruitment and universities is that headhunters are likely not looking for diverse groups or only looking at top-level universities. Short-term contracts drive out talent, because people don’t want this insecurity.
  • We should use work experience as a way of expanding the experience of people who may be less academic or less likely to get into a good university.
  • We shouldn't be using unpaid internships and we should be calling out people who do use them.


  • Teachers see the low statistics of minorities in industry and therefore don’t want to put their students through that.
  • We need careers advisers in schools, particularly schools in disadvantaged areas.
  • We need young people to go out and inspire other young people. Transparency and visibility are key, as it makes young people realise that this is something they could do.
  • We need families included in young people’s career options – people rarely go against their families views on these matters.


Some quotes and responses have been edited for clarity.

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