Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor helps promote Gender Equality in STEM

On Thursday 8th February, Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Swansea University, took part in a panel discussion “Women Leaders at Canada House”, the second in a series of panel discussions.

The event, hosted by the High Commission of Canada, brought together leaders of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from both Canada and the UK, as a platform for discussion on the lack of female representation in the scientific arena.‌

Woman Leaders at Canada HouseDr Imogen Coe of Ryerson University, HE Mrs. Janice Charette, High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom and Professor Lappin-Scott of Swansea University.

Chaired by HE Mrs. Janice Charette, High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom, the panel featured Professor Lappin-Scott and Dr Imogen Coe, Dean, Faculty of Science, at Ryerson University. With an audience largely made up of students, parents and teachers from UK secondary schools, the panel hosted a discussion on gender equality in (STEM), why girls and women do not choose a career path in STEM, and what can be done to encourage them.

Professor Lappin-Scott, said: “It is vitally important to realise that girls and women are choosing STEM subjects and careers but we lose too many of them along the way for various reasons and they fail to reach the senior levels. It is important to raise the visibility of women, to celebrate their contributions and not see women as the ‘hidden figures’ that drive much of the work but receive none of the recognition or rewards.”

Professor Lappin-Scott is a member of the International Board of the American Society of Microbiology and a Founder of the European Academy of Microbiology. With such an impressive career, Professor Lappin-Scott has seen first-hand how few female STEM professionals there are. Even as a child, she was aware that women in science is a rarity.

Professor Lappin-Scott, said: “By the time I was 14 I knew I wanted to study science – but the teachers at my girl’s school did their best to put me off and found my interests in science baffling! In fact I left school with few formal qualifications but went  on to evening classes after work and studied sciences so I that could get into University.  At University I learned of the amazing world of microorganisms and knew then that that was what I wanted to do!”

During the panel discussion Professor Lappin-Scott also stressed that there is still so much to be done in researching why women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to remain in a STEM career, “We need to listen to why they leave ,about the culture and environment and organisations and act upon this for their personal wellbeing and for the well-being of their businesses. When businesses listen and provide better parental leave, flexible working conditions and show women that they are valued – they are more likely to retain their talented staff.”

Canada and the UK have a strategic partnership to champion gender equality, as well as a commitment to scientific innovation and making events like this is a great platform for engaging, inspiring and encouraging important discussions to take place.