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Diversity in science

A picture of the UK scientific workforce

Leading the way: Increasing diversity in the scientific workforce
Photo credit: Medical Research Council

A lack of diversity across the scientific community represents a large loss of talent to the UK.

As part of the Royal Society’s diversity programme we set out to analyse and understand the composition of the scientific workforce in terms of gender, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic status and background. We commissioned several data gathering exercises to explore these issues.

This is the first time that such data have been analysed in relation to diversity characteristics across the whole of the scientific workforce, providing a new, useful and instructive insight into the present status of diversity in science.

Selected findings

Read a summary of the findings in the full report.

The summary presents the key findings from the data, highlights where there are gaps in data or questions the data were not able to answer, and sets out a number of recommendations.

Overall scientific workforce

  • Approximately 20 per cent of the people in the UK workforce need scientific knowledge and training to do their current jobs.


  • Women are not underrepresented in the overall scientific workforce but they are highly underrepresented at the most senior roles.
  • For a cohort of mid-career individuals, women working in science were less likely to take career breaks than women who work in other occupations.


  • Disabled people are underrepresented in the workforce as a whole, but they are no more underrepresented in the scientific workforce than in other occupations.


  • The pattern of ethnicity in the scientific workforce is extremely complex.
  • Overall in the scientific workforce, black and minority ethnic workers are relatively concentrated at the two ends of the spectrum – they are overrepresented in the most senior and most junior parts of the scientific workforce.
  • Black and minority ethnic students are less likely to progress to scientific jobs after graduating than white students.

Socio-economic background

  • Socio-economic background has a strong effect on an individual’s likelihood of entering the scientific workforce. For the mid-career cohort, science workers living in households in the highest income bracket (£20,800 or over) at age 16 in 1986 are more than five times as likely to progress to a professional level occupation than those in the lowest household income bracket (less than £5,199 pa).
  • Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds who did enter the scientific workforce took longer to do so than those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.

About the data reports

The research reports and data tables you can download on this page were commissioned by the Royal Society as part of a four-year programme of work, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), investigating ways to remove barriers to entry, retention and progression within the scientific workforce.

Download the research reports and data tables

Royal Society diversity programme definition of the scientific workforce
Data tables (XLS)

Leading the way: increasing the diversity of the UK Science workforce (DOC)
Data tables (XLS)

The diversity of the UK science workforce: Quantitative analysis of the Annual Population Survey  (DOC)
Data tables & charts (XLS)

Exploring the impact of socio-economic background on careers in science report  (DOC)
Data tables (ZIP)

Summaries of observations on the destinations of leavers from STEMM higher education and STEMM academic workforce (PDF) (DOC)
Data tables (ZIP)

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