Changing discourses in women and science policy: responding to austerity in gender and SET

Herman, Clem; Morton, Pat and Butcher, Jane (2012). Changing discourses in women and science policy: responding to austerity in gender and SET. In: British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2012 - Sociology in an Age of Austerity, 11-13 Apr 2012, University of Leeds.

Abstract

The issue of ‘women in science’ has been a recurring theme in government policy both in the UK and the EU (and indeed globally) for several decades. While considerable research has been done about the problem (Barnard et al 2010), most initiatives during the 80s and 90s tended to be localised and there was little attention to this within broader science policy despite intermittent funding most often linked to labour market concerns. However, in the UK the UKRC was set up and funded in 2004 as part of the government’s science and skills strategy (Greenfield et al, 2002) which for the first time gave substantial centralised and high level funding to support entry, retention and progression of women in science, engineering and technology (SET). Yet this support has been short lived - with government funding for the UKRC now being phased out as part of public sector cuts there is an increasing emphasis on ‘mainstreaming’ and this presents questions about what the future gender equality landscape may present for women in SET in the UK and how to respond to this. Using examples from policy documents and reports, the paper will discuss changing policy discourses that have addressed women, science and technology and considers how public spending cuts might impact on the continuation of policy and practice in this field.

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