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Ruli Pennington is Editor of Council News Monitor and writes Night in the City an occasional column for Information Daily. She is passionate about better public services, devolution, malt whisky & women's football.

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Science and Technology Committee gender imbalance reflected in Women and Equalities Committee appointees

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Image:
© Anandajoti Bhikkhu 2017 - Woman and Man on rams

Following the appointment of an all-male Science and Technology Committee the Woman and Equality Committee swings in the other direction

Following the announcement of an all male Science and Technology select committee last week, there have been calls for the political parties to review their nominations process. A marked lack of diversity of the appointments fuelled the criticism of the announced appointments. 

Sarah Main executive director for the Campaign for Science and Engineering, wrote an article critisizing the appointments: "Let us be clear, this is no reflection on the individuals elected to the committee or the chair. But it demonstrates a startling lack of thought and action throughout the process of nomination and appointment to the committee. We can conclude that the whips of each relevant party were content to put forward all male nominations for the science and technology committee and that the sum of that content led to a, thus far, exclusively male committee. There are three more places (still) to be announced."

Main further commented that the new appointments actaully represented a regression of equality within select committees: "Over the last term of Parliament, the Science and Technology committee enjoyed balanced gender diversity with 60% of all seats available filled by women, a significant uplift from the 17% of women on the committee in the preceding Parliament...this appears not so much to be a Parliament problem as a science in Parliament problem. Parliament must take responsibility for its public image and must consider how the composition of its committees can help inspire people to believe they are eligible to join the debate."

Jason Murugesu, of the New Statesman, argued that the appointments also had a distinct lack of members with scientific backgrounds. Only two of the appointed members, MPs Darren Jones and Graham Stringer, come from science backgrounds, out of a total 103 MPs in parliament. 

Norman Lamb, the Chair of the Committee, took to Twitter to voice his concerns, stating that it was "imperative that we have women on the committee". Following this, he wrote a letter to the Chief Whips of both the Government and Opposition to urge them "in the strongest terms" to act to promote diversity "I would be grateful if you, with the other partiers, could review the way in which parties invite nominations to encourage an appropriate gender balance and a wider diversity".

On Monday 11th September the members of the Women and Equalities Committee were announced. Of the nine members - including Maria Miller MP the Chair of the committee - only three are men. This, of course, isn't even close to the prevailing gender balance in UK population.

 

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