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30 September 2016, 08:44
Scotland has a significant way to go to boost the representation of women in the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sectors, according to a new report.
Equate Scotland has called on industry, government and support organisations to redouble efforts to close the gender gap.
The organisation also highlighted research showing support for equality and diversity training for pupils, students and employees.
Its report said the issue of women's representation in Stem "must remain a political priority'' in the Scottish Parliament, and also called on industry to go beyond "ad-hoc'' solutions.
The report said: "The investment by Scottish Government in the issue has engaged both industry and the public sector, ensuring that there is dialogue across all levels of Stem education and employment.
"However, for this to become action rather than simply rhetoric, the political priority must be met with a strategic plan asking more from industry and calling for there to be an increase in partnership working to avoid saturation of good practice to one geographical or sector area.''
It added: "To enable real and sustainable change on the number of women in Stem, there needs to be an industry commitment to the issue which goes beyond that of an equality and diversity committee or the dedicated enthusiasm of a few individuals within a company.''
The organisation surveyed 1,100 women, educators and employers in the sector on potential solutions to increase the number of women in Stem.
More than 70% backed regular school talks across Scotland from industry experts, 68% supported women's Stem networks in universities and colleges, and almost 70% wanted flexible working to be standard practice in industry.
Equate Scotland director Talat Yaqoob said: "Only 18% of computing students and only 16% of engineering students are women.
"If Scotland is going to be a global competitor in Stem and create a sustainable Stem industry, this needs to change and quickly.
"We need a more inclusive Stem sector, not simply for the sake of the industry but for women, who are at risk of being shut out of the jobs of the future.
"What our research reveals is that women, educators and employers are eager for progress in this area - we hope the report provides a roadmap of what can be done to make Scotland a world leader on women in Stem and we look forward to continuing our work with the Scottish Government to make that happen.''
Responding to the report, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Equate Scotland has done a huge amount of work over the past decade to encourage more women to study and pursue careers in Stem subjects. Their report shows that women are enthusiastic about opportunities in the sector but still face barriers.
"That is why the Scottish Government has committed to developing a Stem strategy to inspire more young people to consider a career in Stem. It will also specifically consider how we can encourage and get girls enthusiastic about subjects like physics where they are currently under-represented.''