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Centre aims to boost the number of women in engineering

01 July, 2004

Centre aims to boost the number of women in engineering

The UK Government has funded the creation of a centre to provide information and advice about careers for women in science, engineering and technology (SET).

The UK Resource Centre for Women in SET, was a key recommendation of the Greenfield report, which identified the need for greater co-ordination of information, resources, knowledge and good practice. The DTI has awarded the Centre a three-year contract worth £2.4m.

According to recent research, 50,000 women with degrees in science, engineering and technology in the UK are not working at any one time - and of those who do go back to work, only around 8,000 return to a job that makes direct use of their university education and training.

"We cannot afford to leave women, who make up 50% of the workforce, out of the UK`s SET future, " says Pat Langford, deputy director and head of promoting SET for women, at the DTI.

The new Centre, based at Bradford College, will:

• give practical advice and support to women in SET, including those thinking of a career in SET and those taking a career break;

• offer help to those working with women, including employers, careers advisors, and educators;

• provide a database of women who can act as role models or speakers;

• gather and publish statistics;

• run a recognition scheme for good SET employers;

• set up support for women returning to work;

• provide good practice guides for employers.

The centre has set up a Web site and a national telephone help-line.

"Women now make up almost half of the workforce, and yet their talents and expertise are still not be utilised to the fullest -- particularly in science, engineering and technology," says the Centre`s director, Annette Williams. "At the same time the UK is currently experiencing a skills shortage in these sectors. It is in the interest of progress, innovation, and economic success, that this problem is addressed and that the true potential of women is fostered. Shrewd employers are beginning to recognise this."

The Centre will be launched formally at a one-day conference in Leeds on 16 September. The conference will cover the Government`s vision for increasing the participation and progression of women in SET, and the role of the new Centre in realising this vision.

The Centre will play a key part in the Government`s ten-year investment framework for science and innovation, announced in July. In addition, the Government has unveiled plans to create a new Women and Work Commission scheduled to start work in the Autumn, which will examine problems facing women across all sectors of employment.

While the UK Resource Centre will focus on removing the barriers that women face in science, engineering and technology, the new Commission will have a broader remit to examine problems such as the gender pay gap in the UK labour market - currently standing at 18% for full-time workers and 40% for part-time workers.

The Centre is backed by a consortium including Sheffield Hallam University, the Open University, the University of Cambridge, the Women into Science and Engineering Campaign (Wise), Women in Technology (Witec), the Equal Opportunities Commission, and the Institute for Employment Studies.

To find out more about the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET, or to book a place at the launch conference, call 01274 436485 or visit www.setwomenresource.org.uk




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