How Tackling Gender Diversity Will Supercharge STEM Innovation

WISE CEO Kay Hussain addressed the crowd at the UKSPA Summer Conference in York – highlighting the importance of embracing talented women in science and innovation. 

Senior leaders, managers, developers, investors, and supporting businesses joined together in York for the UKSPA Summer Conference, to discuss current challenges and successes in the science and innovation sector. 

Insightful panel debates and presentations took place over the two days, covering topics including sustainable buildings & energy efficient spaces, innovation clusters & economic growth, and of course, diversity & inclusion in STEM. 

UKSPA Summer Conference 2023

UKSPA, held at York Science Park, supports, promotes, represents and encourages the continued growth of science parks, technology incubators, innovation centres and other areas of Innovation.

WISE CEO Kay Hussain addressed the crowd as one of two keynote speakers – and highlighted how a lack of diversity in STEM is affecting not just the workforce and business success, but the “economy and our society as a whole.”

She said: “The UK economy is experiencing one of the toughest labour markets in recent history as we navigate the dual challenges of a post Covid and Brexit landscape.

“We have over 1m unfilled vacancies across the country; this means employees now feel more able to switch jobs at any time.

“The STEM skills deficit is particularly acute, and risks undermining our future prosperity; reports estimate:

“There’s a shortfall of 173,000 STEM workers, an average of 10 unfilled roles per business.

Billions lost in missed opportunities

“This lack of skilled staff is costing UK STEM businesses £1.5bn a year and outdated education and training could see the UK forgo up to £140bn in economic growth from missed tech opportunities over the next decade.”

She added: “Whilst there has been a definite shift to more employers building EDI into core business strategy, and government introducing gender initiatives, collectively we still have a really long way to go to achieve and sustain gender parity in STEM.”

Fellow keynote speaker was Pro-Vice Chancellor Partnerships and Engagement, Professor of Entrepreneurship from the University of York, Kiran Trehan.

She gave a fascinating talk on whether or not innovation, partnerships, productivity and prosperity can be compatible bedfellows. 

Innovation clusters “need diversity” 

The event also saw a colourful panel discussion on innovation clusters and the crucial importance of diversity within them. 

Panellist Jeanette Walker, Interim Director, Unity Campus, led on a topic about the “haves and have nots”, and acknowledged the importance of role models to inspire not just the next generation, but those who may have less access to inspiration. 

Fellow panellist Nathan Berry, Head of Collaboration and HealthTech Lead, Nexus, University of Leeds, said: 

“We need to look at how we can be more ’open doors’ to those groups. Looking around the room now, I see we’re not the groups that we’re trying to reach. 

“Those are the communities we need. Our views about social impact are probably completely different!

“The more we can think about other populations and their needs the closer we are to innovative success. It’s about reaching into those communities to find entrepreneurs who never thought of themselves as entrepreneurs.”

For more information about the UKSPA Summer Conference, visit: