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A new report is revealing that women still face important barriers in forging careers in UK energy research. A team from the University of Exeter's Energy Policy Group has analyzed gender balance within the field of energy research and found it to be unfair toward women.
Too slow for too long
"Progress on gender balance in research has been too slow for too long, but we think now is the time to bring together action across funders and universities to ensure that female talent in capitalised on. Taking action across the funding, institutional and systemic issues we identify could drive a real shift in inclusion in the sector," said Jess Britton, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and co-author of the report.
The new report saw the researchers speak to 59 female academics conducting energy research and analyze available data on gender and energy research funding. The interviews revealed several issues that were holding women back from career progression.
"The report shows that there is an urgent need to address the poor gender balance within the UK energy research community -- particularly with respect to leadership of grants and career progression," said Jim Watson, Director of UK Energy Research Centre, the organisation that commissioned the report.
"It not only reveals the extent of the problem with new evidence, but makes a series of practical recommendations should be required reading for funders and universities alike."
The research pinpointed four key ways to improve gender balance. They are:
Look at the data -- The report suggested that meaningful data on gender balance in energy research should be published and used to set targets and monitor progress.
Fund more women -- The report recommended more diversity of funding types as well as trialling innovative approaches to allocating funding and supporting female researchers.
Stimulate career progression for female energy academics -- The report identified a need to overhaul existing institutional structures and cultures to make them more female-friendly.
Build on what is working -- The study recommended identifying key points of engagement to build gender balance and ensure equality of voice.
"We welcome this report, its findings and recommendations. Many of the issues raised are ones we recognise more widely in our research community," said Alison Wall, Deputy Director for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at EPSRC.
"Enhancing diversity and inclusion is one of the priorities in our new Delivery Plan. For example, we plan to make further progress on embedding EDI into the grant application process, developing our peer review processes, provision of further data and increased flexibility in our funding."