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by Margaret Taylor
03 November 2021
Girls must study STEM subjects if the climate emergency is going to be solved

Solutions to the climate emergency will only be found if a diversity of voices are at the decision-making table

Girls must study STEM subjects if the climate emergency is going to be solved

More needs to be done to ensure girls study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) if women are to progress into the key leadership roles required to have an impact in the fight against climate change.

In a panel debate that kicked off the first day of Holyrood magazine’s COP26 Fringe Festival, speakers agreed that while better decisions will be taken if there is a diversity of voices being heard at the highest levels of industry and government, they noted that there are still too few women and representatives of other minority groups to be found in those positions.

As the development of renewable energies and clean technologies will be vital for addressing the climate emergency, panelists noted that girls need to be studying the subjects that will allow them to move into - and progress up in - those industries so they can have an influence on the solutions that are found.

Conservative MSP Meghan Gallacher said the importance of that is clear because “if it’s going to be the same people having the same conversations over and over again we all know what the answers are going to be”.

“We need to look at improving the skills of women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds,” she said. “STEM is going to be hugely important when we’re looking at renewables, but we’re not seeing enough women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds coming through.”

The panelists were in agreement that encouraging women to enter certain industries is not enough, with more needing to be done to ensure they are able to rise to the top once they are there.

Maria Nazarova-Doyle, head of pension investments at Scottish Widows, said quotas and targets, though controversial, have been shown to be an effective way of ensuring women progress into senior roles. Providing flexibility in terms of part-time or home working also produces positive results.

Gallacher added that the coronavirus pandemic has been positive in that respect, as it has shown that people at all levels can work remotely without it affecting their performance.

Nazarova-Doyle stressed that having more women in senior positions is beneficial for organisations because it leads them into better decision-making, something Scottish Widows takes note of when choosing which companies to invest in.

“It’s all about the cognitive diversity that women bring to the table,” she said. “Women think differently because of our experiences and backgrounds and we think about risk differently.

“Cognitive diversity on the boards of the companies we invest in is very important for Scottish Widows – we believe they make better-quality decisions and there’s less risk and better opportunities.”

When world leaders gathered in Glasgow for their COP26 summit this week, it was clear from the footage of those making public addresses – and from a photograph taken ahead of a dinner at the city’s Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery - that political decision-making around the climate emergency is predominantly being driven by white men.

Ingvild Solvang, head of climate action and inclusive development at the Global Green Growth Institute, said that is problematic because women, children and people from vulnerable countries in the global south are being disproportionately impacted by climate change. Their experiences need to be factored into the solutions world leaders come up with.

“We need to listen to them,” she said. “We all play different parts in the solution. Women are active in different sectors that need to have good solutions; we need women at the table.”



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