Face of a woman scientist should be on the new £50 note - ABPI

Great Britain £50  - fifty pounds sterling notes spead out.

The new face in our wallet for those of us fortunate enough to carry £50 notes should be that of a woman scientist, according to the chief scientific officer of the UK's pharma trade body.

Professor Carole Longson of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said the new face on the plastic banknote should be one of the women who have contributed to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The new note, which will be released after 2020, must feature a scientist who is British and dead.

Citing research carried out by the Wise campaign, she said: “Only 33% of girls who take maths and science GCSEs progress into any form of Level 3 STEM qualification, whether this is via the A-level, advanced apprenticeship or vocational qualification routes. This is compared to 80% of boys from the GCSE cohort that progress to a Level 3 STEM qualification. This is despite the fact that girls outperform boys across most GCSE subjects – more so in STEM.

“Banknotes are not alone in their bias. From classroom to boardroom, we have a major shortage of female representation. This is important – I believe gender diversity in science helps drive innovation. Not only that, there is evidence that companies that lead the way in gender diversity also generate better returns.”

She went on to say that banknotes, to date, have ‘massively under-represented' the important contribution women in STEM fields have made to humanity, adding that where companies are gender diverse, they are 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

Professor Longson’s choices for the £50 note are English chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, mathematician and code-breaker Joan Clarke and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon.

To address the gender imbalance in STEM, Amgen, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline have teamed up with the UK government’s Equalities Office and Women’s Business Council to support small businesses in the field to offer a more diverse work environment.

The government has prioritised STEM-based businesses as being crucial to the country’s economic fortunes.

The report, Balancing the SySTEM, from the government-backed Women’s Business Council, in partnership with several pharma companies, argues that encouraging girls to study STEM, and women to take on roles in the sector, will boost the country’s economic prosperity.

Essentially, the UK will lose out unless it improves the gender diversity of its STEM workforce.