Much excitement yesterday as the new line-up for the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee was announced - with, shall we say, a somewhat uniformity of demographic make-up and a glaring omission.
Yup, that's eight men. And no women.
As Baroness Soho - aka Martha Lane Fox - scathingly noted:
Still, at least all the men on the Committee have solid scientific or technology backgrounds, eh? Er...well, no, not really. Only two have any form of scientific qualification, one of whom is Graham Stringer, who has a background as an analytical chemist, but is best known as a climate change sceptic - which is interesting in this Committee role.
To his credit, Committee Chairman Norman Lamb realised the faux pas pretty quickly and stated:
OK, so the sentiment is there, but those last three words are pretty important though. Lamb can actually do very little to ensure that the last three remaining places are taken up by female MPs, even though Lane Fox urged:
Lamb did later say to The Guardian:
I don’t see how we can proceed without women on the committee. It sends out a dreadful message at a time when we need to convince far more girls to pursue Stem subjects. We will not be effective as a committee.
Incidentally, Lamb was appointed as Chair of the Committee over a woman MP - Jo Swinson, former Vice-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Digital Taskforce.
Just in case, Honourable Members are struggling to fill those three seats, could we point out that there are a fair few of their colleagues with suitable backgrounds to choose from, such as:
- Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central (BEng Electrical Engineering)
- Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes (Bachelor of Medicine)
- Philippa Whitford, MP for Ayshire (Bachelor of Medicine)
- Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South (BSc Biochemistry)
- Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire (BSc in Astrophysics)
- Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal (BSc & PhD in Chemistry)
- Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North West (BSc in Physics).
The remaining seats will be taken by two Conservative members and one Labour.
Did no alarm bells ring in anyone's mind about the make-up of this Committee?
Or about boasting about its male chromosome line-up at a time when diversity is high on everyone's agenda and it's a government priority to get more girls to follow STEM careers?
Sort it out! Stupid own goal for the Committee and for the UK.
UPDATED - 12.00, 13/09/2017
Committee Chairman Norman Lamb has today written to the Government Chief Whip and his Opposition counterpart to urge that they both take action to ensure that there are women candidates for the remaining three seats. He also calls for action by the main political parties to ensure there are mechanisms in place in future produce more diverse lists of candidates.