14 Sep 2017   |   News

UK science committee chair calls for more women MPs nominees

Ex-MEP Vicky Ford joins UK Parliament science committee following storm over all-male line-up

MEP Vicky Ford speaking during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Copyright: © European Union 2017 - Source: EP.

Former MEP turned MP Vicky Ford joined the UK’s Commons Science Committee on Wednesday, following a storm over the lack of female nominees to the group.

The committee chairman, Norman Lamb of the Liberal Democrats, wrote to the two main political parties, Labour and the Conservatives, asking for women to fill the remaining three slots after the first eight positions were taken by men.

UK science minister Jo Johnson said the situation needed to be resolved or the committee would lack “basic legitimacy”.

Ford, who stepped down from her role in the European Parliament to fight the general election in June, was announced as her party’s nomination later in the day. There are two more spaces to fill.

The all-male make-up of the original panel demonstrated “a startling lack of thought” from parties, said Sarah Main, director at Campaign for Science and Engineering, an advocacy group. “It is tragic that with so many efforts going on in the science community to change the image of science to a more inclusive one, that parliament could not match that effort in recognition of its responsibility as an authoritative focal point for scientific debate.”

ScienceGrrl, an organisation supporting women in science, said it is, “Extremely disappointed this committee doesn't represent [the] scientific community in the UK.”

Writing in the Guardian, Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge and member of the European Research Council scientific board said, “It is not encouraging for young female scientists to see that parliament apparently cares so little about their futures that they couldn’t even come up with even that long-derided sole token woman.”

She added that filling the remaining places with women would now be “demeaning”.

In the previous Parliament, 60 per cent of committee members were women, up from 17 per cent in the preceding Parliament. From 2015-17, the group was led by Nicola Blackwood, who lost her seat in the general election in June.