Published date

November 2018

Tapping All Our Talents Review 2018: Women in STEM

In November 2018, the RSE published its report, Tapping All Our Talents 2018 (TAOT 2018). Building on the RSE’s report of 2012 on women in STEM, TAOT 2018 comprehensively reviews the progress that has been made at increasing the proportion of women working and studying in STEM in Scotland, including the number who rise to senior positions in academia and industry.

The 2012 report highlighted the ‘leaky pipeline’ where almost three-quarters of female graduates were lost from STEM. Six years on, the issues of gender equality and the gender pay gap are higher up the political agenda than ever before; while the economic imperative to retain and promote top talent, regardless of gender, has become starker.

But has this translated into a perceivable shift in culture that encourages women to pursue careers in STEM and enables them to progress at an equal rate to men?

This is precisely the question that the joint RSE and Young Academy of Scotland review group, led by Professor Lesley Yellowlees, has examined. While the 2012 report considered the position of female STEM graduates in academia and the workplace, the 2018 report has gone further by exploring every stage of the ‘pipeline’ from the early years. This has enabled the review to systematically consider what needs to be done to further advance gender equality in STEM.

Through a public consultation, a series of roundtable discussions and a review of the literature and data available, TAOT 2018 considers what has – and has not – changed for women working in STEM in Scotland today, and it makes recommendations for addressing the under-representation of women in STEM.

The following four themes underpin TAOT 2018:

  • The need for leadership including from the UK and Scottish Governments to drive culture change;
  • The need for better data that allow real understanding and tracking of the extent of gender inequality in STEM, barriers to progress and appropriate solutions;
  • A focus on behaviour change that recognises the benefits of gender equality for everyone and that renders bias and discrimination unacceptable; and
  • Strong, sustained partnerships between educators and industry to deliver education and training that inspires all young people to engage in STEM.

Following the publication of TAOT 2018, the RSE is keen to facilitate and support collaborative actions to tackle gender inequality in STEM involving government, public sector, business and education providers.


Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE FRSE, Review Group Chair; former Vice Principal and Head of College of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh; former President, Royal Society of Chemistry.

Professor Polly Arnold, Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh.

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE, RSE President; Visiting Professor of Astrophysics, Oxford University.

Professor Alice Brown CBE FRSE, former Chair, Scottish Funding Council; Emeritus Professor of Politics, University of Edinburgh.

Dr Allan Colquhoun, University Liaison and Emerging Technologies Manager, Leonardo.

Dr Mary Doherty, Senior Lecturer and Head of Postgraduate Research Development, University of the Highlands and Islands; member, Young Academy of Scotland.

Dr Fiona McNeill, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Heriot-Watt University; member, Young Academy of Scotland.

Douglas Morrison, STEM and Innovation Lead, City of Glasgow College; Director, Scottish Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.

Dr Eileen Wall, Professor of Integrative Livestock Genetics at SRUC; Vice President of the British Society of Animal Science.

David Watt, Executive Director, Institute of Directors Scotland.

Dr Rebekah Widdowfield, RSE Chief Executive

Dr Tanya Wilson, Early Career Fellow, Economics, University of Stirling.

Talat Yaqoob, Director, Equate Scotland


1. Identify progress made on the 2012 recommendations to the Scottish and UK Governments, industry, funders, universities and research institutes, professional bodies and women’s organisations.

2. Investigate current data on the representation of women in the STEM workforce across sectors and across levels of seniority, and on the gender pay gap, to discern whether the arguments made six years ago remain valid.

3. Consider more broadly the changing landscape in which issues of women’s equality are being tackled. This will include reviewing the impact of initiatives rolled out in Scotland, the UK and further afield, in order to comment on lessons learned and highlight good practice.

4. Widen the scope of the Review to consider the early journey of girls and young women into STEM, looking holistically at the path through primary and secondary education and at the spectrum of routes into work through further and higher education and training.

5. Present an updated picture of the progress that has, or has not, been made since 2012. It will recommend the actions that policy-makers, educators and employers can take to ensure that Scotland is leading the way to a fair and equal STEM workforce, capturing all the social and economic benefits this will bring.

Submissions and Roundtables

The Review Group launched an open consultation in March 2018.  The consultation questions can be found in the Call for Evidence. The submissions received from organisations and individuals are published, below.


Advance HE

Close The Gap

Colleges Scotland

Crieff High School Professional Reading Group

Dundee University Athena SWAN

Edinburgh Napier University

Equate Scotland

Heriot-Watt University

Institute of Physics

NUS Scotland

Primary Engineer


Scottish Funding Council

Scottish Power

Scottish Qualifications Authority

Scottish Science Advisory Council

University of Glasgow

University of Strathclyde

University of the Highlands and Islands

Universities Scotland

University of Edinburgh

University of St Andrews

West College Scotland











Professor Stuart Monro

In addition to the open consultation, the Review Group held a series of Chatham House Rule roundtable discussions with stakeholders across government, academia, industry, education and the third sector. The notes of the roundtables are available, below.


Academic & Research Employment

Business and Industry

Policy and Third Sector

Primary and Secondary Education

Further and Higher Education

Women Working in STEM



Contact Details

For further information contact the secretariat: [email protected]