Last Thursday when Parliament was closing down for a few days because of the Council elections that take place this Thursday a Labour MP raised an important STEM call which is shown below. The focus was on comments that have been raised by Katharine Birbalsingh who is the Chair of the Social Mobility Commission (SMC). According to the Government website the SMC exists to create a United Kingdom where the circumstances of birth do not determine outcomes in life. SMC is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Cabinet Office and supported by the Governments Equality Hub. The Hub is described as it focuses on disability policy, ethnic disparities, gender equality, LGBT rights and the overall framework of equality legislation for the UK. The Labour MP that was speaking is Chi Onwurah who is the Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and she is also the MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central. Her comment is available online here and the text is as follows and it has a response from Lindsay Hoyle :
Chi Onwurah: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, in evidence to the Select Committee on Science and Technology, the chair of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission said that
“physics isn’t something that girls tend to fancy. They don’t want to do it, they don’t like it…I just think they don’t like it. There’s a lot of hard maths…The research generally…just says that’s a natural thing”.
She said she was
“certainly not out there campaigning” for more girls to do physics, adding:
“I don’t mind that there’s only 16%”.
That contradicts the lived experience of many girls and women who love maths, such as myself, and research from many organisations and institutions such as the Institute of Physics, the all-party group on diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and maths, which I chair, and, most importantly, the Government’s own stated policy on encouraging girls in STEM. Can you, Mr Speaker, advise me: given that we are proroguing today I cannot lay any written questions, so how can I ascertain whether the Government have changed their policy on encouraging girls into STEM?
Lindsay Hoyle: I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order. On the very last day of a Session she has very few options, as she notes, but I am sure her words will not go unnoticed and, once again, those on the Treasury Bench will be listening and I hope it can be taken on board, and I am sure some communication can be made to her.