Where are the women scientists and engineers?

Chi Onwurah – Guardian – Friday, 20September 2013 (originally published 16 Sept)

Space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
Festival star … space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Image: Teri Pengilley

It may not have made the headlines, but roughly the same number of men and women spoke at last week’s British Science festival in Newcastle. With Maggie Aderin-Pocock appearing alongside Robert Winston, the annual week-long celebration of science, engineering and technology achieved gender parity for the second year running, an astounding feat.

Astounding because women make up only 7% of Royal Society fellows, a body for the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists in the UK. Just 6% of professional engineers are women, the lowest proportion in Europe. And, most worryingly, the figures are not improving. A quarter of a century since I studied electrical engineering, still just 13% of engineering undergraduates are female.

Having worked as an engineer for two decades, I generally take a female friend with me to all industry dinners if only to be sure I’m not the only woman at the table, literally and metaphorically. At the festival dinner I found myself next to BSA chair Julia Goodfellow while incoming president Lisa Jardine took to the stage . . .

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