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Scientific Careers

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 5 June 2003

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What steps she is taking to encourage women to take up careers as (a) scientists, (b) technologists and (c) engineers. [116567]

On 28 April, I launched a new strategy to improve the participation of women in science, engineering and technology careers. Central to that new strategy is the establishment of a resource centre that will move that agenda forward and encourage more women to take up and to stay and to succeed in science, engineering and technology careers.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but will she ensure that sufficient resources are made available for the implementation of that strategy, much of which is based on Susan Greenfield's excellent recent report? Will she ensure that sufficient resources are made available to allow many of its recommendations to be implemented?

Yes, I will. We have already secured additional funding worth nearly £1 million a year to cover all the activities of the new resource centre. That centre will also put together a plan for additional investment to ensure that women with science and technology qualifications who are not in employment are helped to return to employment, which should amount to an additional £500,000.

May I remind my right hon. Friend that many women scientists work at the National Institute for Medical Research? Their careers are somewhat uncertain because of the proposal to relocate the institute. Will she do what she can to secure an early decision on that, because it is causing significant recruitment and retention problems at the NIMR, especially for women scientists?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenuity in shifting that question. As he implies, no decision has been made on the future of the centre. That is a matter for the Medical Research Council, which is consulting closely on the centre's future with staff and other stakeholders.