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Scientific Professions: Women

Volume 618: debated on Thursday 8 December 2016

It is vital that we encourage talented women into scientific careers. Those working in science, technology, engineering and maths careers on average earn a pay premium of 19%. Ensuring that women work in STEM careers will also help to tackle the gender pay gap. Role models are absolutely crucial for young women, and some 40% of STEM ambassadors are women.

I would like to take this opportunity to put on record my thanks to Tim Peake, who did an amazing job of working with schools while he was on his space trip earlier this year. I have met many, many schoolchildren who have had their interest in STEM stimulated from the work he did while on his space trip.

In a free market, the shortage of science teachers to inspire young women would be addressed by a rising wage. It is worth a try.

We are trying to make sure that some of the very best graduates in STEM subjects go into teaching. Our bursary schemes help to encourage that. Some fantastic teachers are now coming into the profession, which will help us to further build the STEM pipeline.

Research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology shows that science, technology, engineering and maths-based toys are three times more likely to be targeted at boys than at girls. I should declare an interest as a chartered engineer in the IET. Will the Secretary of State declare her support for the Let Toys Be Toys campaign, which aims to give girls and boys, in the run-up to Christmas, a real choice about the kinds of toys they can enjoy and the careers they can have?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight this. There are no boys’ careers and girls’ careers anymore—these careers should be open to all children. A person’s gender should not matter. As we have said, part of how we fix this challenge is by working in schools. I was very proud last month when one of my own schools, Ashcroft academy, won a STEM inspiration award for its Tuesday lunchtime STEM club. Such initiatives might seem small, but they have a profound effect on improving children’s interest in taking STEM forward.