Can women get us out of this downturn?


Cambridge AWiSE and Lucy Cavendish College held a joint meeting to mark International Women’s Day and National Science and Engineering Week. The event, 'Sparking Ideas: Utilising all our talents in science and engineering', addressed the question: If women are good for business, why aren’t there more at the top?

Lamia Walker of the Centre for Women in Business, London Business School, presented research showing that teams made of equal numbers of women and men are more innovative and effective and therefore good for business.   Despite this and despite three decades of Equal Opportunity legislation, there are still few women at senior levels in business and industry, particularly in science, engineering and technology.
The event’s other presenter, Professor Virginia Valian of Hunter College, City University of New York believes that although childcare and the simple fact that fewer women enter SET careers are important issues, they don’t explain why women are still under-represented at senior levels. In fact, in subjects such as the biosciences women now outnumber men at undergraduate level but are still underrepresented in more senior posts, whether they have children or not. 
Professor Valian suggested that we all hold implicit views about gender differences which advantage men and disadvantage women professionally. It is the accumulation of these small advantages which help men to succeed and women to miss out. Individuals, and the organisations we work for, need to put in place procedures to prevent us making assumptions based on gender so that the fair treatment of women and men becomes possible. And as research shows, this will be good for us all and good for business.

Thursday 5th March 2009
Sparking Ideas: Utilising all our talents in science and engineering. Research from psychology and economics.

Virginia Valian is the author of “Why so slow: The advancement of women”. In this book, she uses psychology, sociology, economics and biology to explain the disparity in the professional advancement of men and women.

Lamia Walker is the Director of the Centre for Women in Business at London Business School. The Centre’s mission is to be the pre-eminent research centre for leadership and knowledge on women in business in Europe and showcases best practice on gender diversity in the business world.


Cambridge AWiSE is a regional network for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine (STEMM) in both industry and academia. It supports recruitment, retention, promotion and return to a STEMM career after a break. We bring together women with common interests and act as a source of support, information, and inspiration. We provide regular workshops, training, talks, networking opportunities and information through our website and newsletter.

Cambridge Association for Women in Science and Engineering (AWiSE)