Gender Equity Network lectures

Inaugural lecture, 29th Oct 2015

Lecturer: Dr John Barry

Affiliation: Gender Equity Network:

Title: The impact of gender equality schemes on the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) workforce

Main points of lecture

  • Most people think the basic idea of equal opportunities is ok, so people automatically say ‘yes’ when asked if they support gender equality schemes
  • However these schemes are not transparent about how they aim to achieve equality e.g. ‘positive action’ for women only, women-only networks (e.g. UCL Women or Astrea), withholding funding for those who don’t comply etc
    • Is this just another 'old-boys network', except for women only?
  • If it’s unequal, is it unfair? Or isn’t a 50:50 world a one-size-fits-all world?
    • Why does it not concern the equality industry that there are more men than women in dirty / dangerous jobs? Why are they only interested in increasing numbers of women into lucrative jobs? 
  • Positive action could be good if based on true need rather than statistical inequality. For example, if there were more male psychologists (most psychologists are women) perhaps this might help reduce male suicide (3.5 times more common in men).
  • Most women don’t want to work in STEM, and drop out after a while to pursue other lifestyles or jobs (Royal Society for Chemistry, 2008; Gino et al, 2015), so why does the equality industry insist on going against women’s choices?
    • The only women who really benefit are the minority of women who prefer a career to family (Hakim, 2000).
  • Gender equality programmes don’t work. The equality industry is repeatedly perplexed that women refuse to apply for or drop out of STEM careers (Nurse, 2014), because the equality industry fail to see that women don’t want to work in STEM areas.
    • This echoes the findings of decades of positive action for women in boardrooms in Sweden (Henrekson & Stenkula, 2009), and the EMBO (2015) report on molecular biology.
    • It’s like someone insisting on helping somebody across the road when they don’t want to go there.
  • Professor Dame Sally Davies (2011) wants to make institutions adopt gender equality schemes (e.g. an Athena SWAN silver award) mandatory before medical research funding will be granted. This restriction on funding is likely to start in 2017.
    • One of the panel at the House of Commons (2013) inquiry into the ‘leaky pipeline’ of women progressing in STEM said that such funding restrictions would be heavy handed and a threat to research excellence.
      • Prof Davies once suggested “the bullshit gene is on the Y chromosome” and is the reason why men over-confidently make their way up the career ladder ahead of women (Davies, 2013).
  • Presumed bias against women (e.g. ‘unconscious bias’) distracts us from the bias against men implicit in schemes such as Athena SWAN.
    • In fact there is evidence that the bias is against men (Williams & Ceci, 2015)
  • Gender equality programmes have backing from major bodies e.g. UN’s ‘50-50 planet’ (Guardian, 2015), EU, governments i.e. the equality industry are in no way underdogs.
  • The demands of the equality industry causes universities to waste a huge amount of admin time e.g. applying for AS awards, creating workshops, compiling stats etc
  • Negative impact on men’s and boy's careers… Unless there are unlimited jobs in STEM.
    • Boys still lagging behind girls in education, but boys still prefer STEM subjects and girls still prefer people-orientated subjects.
    • Lord Sumption says gender quotas will put men off from pursuing their preferred careers
    • If you want talent in STEM, why ignore the track record of talent from boys?
  • From April 2015, the equality schemes being imposed on STEMM will be imposed on the arts, humanities, social science, business and law departments (AHSSBL)
  • The Gender Equity Network aims to promote a more open discussion regarding gender equality / equity etc


Davies (2011). Letter from Chief Medical Officer & Chief Scientific Advisor to the government, Professor Dame Sally C Davies, 29/07/2011

Davies (2013). Professor Dame Sally C Davies on BBC Radio 3's Private Passions, 18 Aug 2013

EMBO (2015). Report on molecular biology

Gino, F., Wilmuth, C. A., & Brooks, A. W. (2015). Compared to men, women view professional advancement as equally attainable, but less desirable.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(40), 12354-12359.

Henrekson, M., & Stenkula, M. (2009). Why are there so few female top executives in egalitarian welfare states?

House of Commons (2013). Women in STEM careers.

Hakim, C. (2000). Hakim, Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century, Oxford University Press

Nurse, P (2014). Gender balance among University Research Fellows

RSC (2008). The Chemistry PhD: the impact on women’s retention. Royal Society of Chemistry.

Guardian (2015). World leaders pledge to achieve gender equality by 2030.

Williams, W. M., & Ceci, S. J. (2015). National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, 5360-5365