RSE reviews Women in STEM report – Tapping All Our Talents: Six Years On

In 2012, over 70% of female STEM graduates in Scotland left the STEM career path after graduating; six years later – has anything changed?


On Monday 19 March, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) and the Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) launched Tapping All Our Talents: Six Years On, a review into the progress that has been made towards equality in the Scottish STEM workplace over the past six years.

This was the official launch of the RSE’s open consultation, which is being conducted jointly with YAS, on the realities faced by women and girls studying and working in STEM in Scotland today, building on its ground-breaking 2012 report Tapping All Our Talents – Women in STEM. The Review aims to determine whether Scotland has moved closer to realising the economic and social rewards that a more equal STEM workforce can bring, and to identify what more needs done.

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, who spoke at the launch event, commented, “Developing Scotland’s STEM talent is key to achieving our ambitions of being a modern, dynamic and open economy and tackling the under-representation of females in STEM careers is an important part of achieving that goal. Our STEM Strategy, launched in October, includes specific actions to address the gender imbalance in STEM across education and training. I welcome the RSE’s continued interest in the STEM workforce and I am keen to work closely with them to connect their findings with our ongoing work in this area.”

Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the RSE, said, “It is crucial that we revisit the work of this report, in 2012 we showed that there was a large, untapped resource in our STEM workforce. I am eager to hear the results of this review, and see the progress that has been made in Scotland in the past six years.”

Professor Lesley Yellowlees, Chair of the Tapping All Our Talents Review Group, commented, “While I believe there has been progress, the Gender Pay Gap persists over 40 years on from the Equal Pay Act. In my view, among other things, we need to: consider further what the situation is in the business and industrial sector; review the impact of the Athena Swan programme on progress in our universities; review how parental (or other family) leave is best shared; monitor how women (and men) are supported back into their careers after breaks; and consider the most up to date economic analysis of not maximising the potential of talented female scientists.”


Background of Tapping All Our Talents:

In 2012, the RSE recognised that the majority of women with qualifications in STEM subjects did not work in STEM areas, in contrast to men. The RSE challenged the UK and Scottish Governments, industry, employers and others to address this huge loss to the economy and society. The RSE called for a national strategy for Scotland to increase the proportion of women in the STEM workplace and to increase the number who rose to senior positions in universities, research institutes, government, business and industry.


The 2018 Review:

In 2018, the RSE will identify what progress, if any, has been made in the past six years towards gender equality in the STEM workplace in Scotland. It will also broaden the scope to consider the journey girls and young women take into STEM through primary, secondary and further and higher education. A report of its findings and recommendations for moving Scotland forward to a fair and equal STEM workforce will be published later this year.

The Review Group is made up of leading professionals from education, academia, industry and the third sector. As well as holding an open consultation for interested individuals and organisations to submit their own views and experiences on these issues, the Group will also meet with stakeholders across government, academia, industry and the third sector to inform its findings.



Tapping All Our Talents Review Group:

Professor Lesley Yellowlees, 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, RSE President; Visiting Professor of Astrophysics, Oxford University.

Professor Alice Brown, 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 McNeil, 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, Reader in Integrative Animal Sciences, SRUC; member, Young Academy of Scotland.

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