A picture of the UK scientific workforce

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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.


  • 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.
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