The impact of the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM’s recommendations
20 July, 2021
by Sarah Bakewell, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
How can the parliamentary group’s recommendations improve diversity in our sector?
In early 2021 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Diversity and Inclusion in STEM launched an inquiry into equity in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce. As a sponsor of the APPG, the IOP responded to the inquiry, contributing evidence on the image of the physics sector in the UK.
After largescale consultation and roundtable discussions from leading players in the STEM sector, the group’s recommendations have now been released.
The report features five key findings and three recommendations.
- The STEM workforce is less diverse than the wider workforce but consistent data collection and sharing is lacking
- There is a need for the government to take a multi-pronged approach to drive equity in the STEM workforce
- Intersectional barriers continue from STEM education into the workforce
- There is awareness of structural inequity in some large STEM organisations, but no consensus on solution
- There is already considerable inequity in STEM but COVID-19 is making it worse
- The UK government and STEM organisations, across the private, public and voluntary sectors, should commit to leading a ‘STEM Diversity Decade of Action’ to tackle the historic and systemic under-representation of minoritised groups at all levels in the sector
- The UK government must deliver a statutory workforce data strategy and drive forward changes in policy and legislation to support employers to improve equity for minoritised communities in many sectors of the UK workforce, including STEM
- The UK government and STEM organisations must quickly look to address and reverse worsening inequity within the STEM workforce as a result of the pandemic
The IOP fully supports and welcomes the recommendations included in the report, and took great value in participating in the APPG’s roundtable discussions looking at how the UK government can advance and inhibit equity and inclusive cultures within the STEM workforce. The inquiry and roundtable bought together leading inspirational and experienced voices who are advocating for better Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the STEM sector. We now draw particular attention to three key areas in which we believe the recommendations will have real impact.
Whilst there are many ways to measure success for EDI, data remains a core component of baselining and evidencing progress. Lack of consistency around the collection of EDI data, in quantity, quality and format, poses one of the biggest challenges. Collecting more and uniform data will serve to improve our understanding of how the STEM sector is improving in terms of representation, can be used to assess the impact of interventions, and ensure we are focusing efforts in the areas that need it most using an evidence-based approach.
The report demonstrated that EDI is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for the STEM sector, or indeed any other sector. Eliminating the skills gap, ‘Building Back Better’, and ‘Leveling Up’ the nation requires real buy-in and support from leaders.
Leaders must embed EDI into their business decisions, and ask themselves and their teams how their strategic decisions impact people from all backgrounds, and contribute to the nation’s aims of becoming a Science Superpower.
The IOP particularly welcomes the recommendation advocating for those who undertake EDI activity to be recognised and remunerated for their efforts. So often EDI work falls to those who are marginalised or under-represented, adding additional pressure to their working lives. These individuals are passionate, creative, innovative and intrinsically driven, and add great value to the culture of their organisations.
Undertaking EDI activities often comes at a personal cost to those involved; for some it’s emotional when sharing their life experiences, for others it costs them a promotion because their EDI work is not part of their objectives and not valued as much as, say, research.
Applying this recommendation will start to change that challenge, helping to ensure people feel valued. This will go a long way to improving EDI in organisations and help to recognise the value and importance of this work.
The APPG and its contributors will be promoting and supporting these recommendations. At the IOP, we are playing our role in promoting and effecting change, and look forward to taking part in the coalition proposed by the APPG.
You can get involved by sharing the messages on your social media channels, reading and implementing the recommendations in your place of work or study to support positive change, and writing to your MP to share your thoughts and the report’s calls for action.