The gender pay gap and science.

If you google ‘gender pay gap’, these are the results you will see.

The second most searched term surrounding the gender pay gap has the word ‘myth’ in it. But unfortunately, it is not a myth. In fact, the gender pay gap has widened, meaning that women earn 15.7% less than men for full time employment in the UK. Furthermore, the gender pay gap gets wider in areas of employment that are mainly occupied by women, such as part-time employment or the public sector, where the gender pay gap stands at 35%.

But what about science?

Women are incredibly underrepresented in science, with over 80% of employees in science being male. Not only are women less likely to make a career in science, but they are also likely to be effected by the gender pay gap. In SET (Science, Engineering and Technology), the gender pay gap in 2008 was 12.6%. This is lower than some other occupations, but it is still a significant difference that should not be ignored because of this.

Generally in part-time work across the UK, the gender pay gap is incredibly high. But we see a large difference not only between the part-time wage of men and women in science, but a huge difference in the wages of part-time female employees and full-time female employees in science. Women in part-time employment in Science, Engineering and Technology will infect earn 21.8% less than women in SET working full-time. 

A lot of the contributing factors that exacerbate the gender pay gap are alive and kicking in science. As well as women earning less for the same job as men, there are other factors that worsen the gender pay gap. For example, women are more likely to work in lower paid jobs than men, women are less likely to continue their career after children, women are more likely to take a career break related to family and women are more likely to work part-time. These factors are related to a lot of social issues that surround gender stereotypes, such as women are assumed to be the primary carer and men are less likely to be expected to stop working after having children, as well as women being subconsciously taught from a young age to consider their future career based on their future family and are less likely to see themselves in highly paid careers and strive to achieve that. These are also seen in science and this can have tremendous effect on their career and wage. For example, women are more likely to have a career break for family reasons and then are left behind, meaning that STEM educated women enter an alternative workforce that does not utilise their skills and usually part-time. 

Science is not exempt from the issues that face women in the workforce, in fact not only does it echo these issues but sometimes it worsens them. And, for a community that strives to imagine the future, it  is crucial that it becomes aware of its issues with gender and addresses them, to make sure that the future it is imagining is best for all of us.


Why do we need STEMinism?

Women are incredibly underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), not only this, but the women in these industries are also less likely to submit research funding proposals and are more likely to be left behind by career breaks. Furthermore, young girls are less likely to view themselves as capable of doing well in STEM subjects or viewing themselves as able to pursue a STEM career in the future.
Some people, including Richard Dawkins, are concerned about the integration of the women’s rights movement or feminism into science and readily question whether it even matters if there is under-representation of women in science or if the issues for women in STEM are addressed.
So why do we need STEMinism?
STEM industries are often thought of as a distant, separate medium, when they are in fact a form of business. The issues for women found in business are echoed within STEM, such as underrepresentation of women in higher paid jobs in these industries, issues surrounding the idea of women’s abilities within these industries and the gender pay gap. Moreover, most FTSE business boards have a very low proportion of women on them, and this is seen in FTSE STEM boards too. In fact, they have found that when a board has broader representation (having one women on the board), the profits of that business or company will increase dramatically. This is due to the diversifying of the experiences and opinions on the board, allowing alternative inputs and perspectives to be taken into account in dicision making. If fact, this profit increases even more if two women are featured on a company’s board, and even more so as you increase the diversity. Thus, due to the similar nature of STEM and the business world, the same effect would take place if diversity and equality was increased on FTSE STEM boards.
Furthermore, science as a community can often view itself as holding the correct view for the future, and (whether or not that is correct) we need to make sure that this view for the future includes everybody. So by increasing the representation of women and other marginalised groups on FTSE STEM boards and within STEM industries generally, we will be able to produce better science as it will bring in more perspectives and experience than those of the current majority (white, middle class men) and generate economic growth.
The potential for economic growth is high already for STEM, but this increases more as diversity is addressed. Current figures show that most women are employed below their skillset and their full potential is not being utilised in the economy. In fact, it is thought that if the UK started using women in the workforce to their full potential, this could generate £2.3 billion (2% GDP).
Thus, not only does diversity add to the efforts in science in contributing new ways of thinking and perspectives to a problem to be solved, but it also harbours tremendous economic potential for the money generated in science as well as society as a whole.