Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. They’re out to get Cameron, but let’s not laugh too soon (Independent)

After plebgate and traingate the left longs to see Cameron unseated - but be careful what you wish for, writes Owen Jones.

2. It's been a week of low farce for the Tories. Yet little has really changed (Guardian)

Coalition troubles don't mean improving Labour fortunes: the economy and the eurozone still offer Cameron a chance, says Jackie Ashley.

3. Shadow of 9/11 towers over the US election (Financial Times)

The presidential campaign shows that the US has not yet left the Bush era behind, says Edward Luce.

4. Our universities need the Californian dream (Times) (£)

Britain must diversify: we should offer more than three-year degrees aimed at school leavers, writes Martin Rees.

5. This presidential election show is lame, but the outcome could be dramatic (Guardian)

The Democrats are clearly doing something right, yet almost any outcome lies within a narrowing margin of error, writes Gary Younge.

6. With the BBC on the run, ITV’s reputation is gaining ground (Independent)

The Savile story is essentially a tale of two broadcasters, and ITV will come out looking better for it, says Ian Burrell.

7. The austerity debate: time to think much bigger (Guardian)

Halting the government's programme to shrink the state will not resolve the other underlying problems, says a Guardian editorial.

8. Banking union will not end Europe’s crisis (Financial Times)

The project could unite the EU’s core but it will also separate it from the rest, writes Wolfgang Munchau.

9. David Cameron’s Euro pledge is a load of Brussels spouts (Sun)

Can we believe a word "Cast Iron Dave" says about a referendum after his previous broken promises, asks Nigel Farage.

10. Carlton Club snub adds to Mitchell woes (Daily Mail)

The club membership committee has decided unanimously to give honorary membership to Grant Shapps, the new Tory chairman, but not Mitchell, writes Andrew Pierce.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The science and technology committee debacle shows how we're failing women in tech

It would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

Five days after Theresa May announced, in her first Prime Minister’s Questions after the summer recess, that she was "particularly keen to address the stereotype about women in engineering", an all-male parliamentary science and technology committee was announced. You would laugh if it wasn’t all so depressing.

It was only later, after a fierce backlash against the selection, that Conservative MP Vicky Ford was also appointed to the committee. I don’t need to say that having only one female voice represents more than an oversight: it’s simply unacceptable. And as if to rub salt into the wound, at the time of writing, Ford has still not been added to the committee list on parliament's website.

To the credit of Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP who was elected chair of the committee in July, he said that he didn't "see how we can proceed without women". "It sends out a dreadful message at a time when we need to convince far more girls to pursue Stem [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] subjects," he added. But as many people have pointed out already, it’s the parties who nominate members, and that’s partly why this scenario is worrying. The nominations are a representation of those who represent us.

Government policy has so far completely failed to tap into the huge pool of talented women we have in this country – and there are still not enough women in parliament overall.

Women cannot be considered an afterthought, and in the case of the science and technology committee they have quite clearly been treated as such. While Ford will be a loud and clear voice on the committee, one person alone can’t address the major failings of government policy in improving conditions for women in science and technology.

Study after study has shown why it is essential for the UK economy that women participate in the labour force. And in Stem, where there is undeniably a strong anti-female bias and yet a high demand for people with specialist skills, it is even more pressing.

According to data from the Women’s Engineering Society, 16 per cent of UK Stem undergraduates are female. That statistic illustrates two things. First, that there is clearly a huge problem that begins early in the lives of British women, and that this leads to woefully low female representation on Stem university courses. Secondly, unless our society dramatically changes the way it thinks about women and Stem, and thereby encourages girls to pursue these subjects and careers, we have no hope of addressing the massive shortage in graduates with technical skills.

It’s quite ironic that the Commons science and technology committee recently published a report stating that the digital skills gap was costing the UK economy £63bn a year in lost GDP.

Read more: Why does the science and technology committee have no women – and a climate sceptic?

Female representation in Stem industries wasn’t addressed at all in the government’s Brexit position paper on science, nor was it dealt with in any real depth in the digital strategy paper released in April. In fact, in the 16-page Brexit position paper, the words "women", "female" and "diversity" did not appear once. And now, with the appointment of the nearly all-male committee, it isn't hard to see why.

Many social issues still affect women, not only in Stem industries but in the workplace more broadly. From the difficulties facing mothers returning to work after having children, to the systemic pay inequality that women face across most sectors, it is clear that there is still a vast amount of work to be done by this government.

The committee does not represent the scientific community in the UK, and is fundamentally lacking in the diversity of thought and experience necessary to effectively scrutinise government policy. It leads you to wonder which century we’re living in. Quite simply, this represents a total failure of democracy.

Pip Wilson is a tech entrepreneur, angel investor and CEO of amicable