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Better balance required in sciences

Lord Sainsbury calls for more diversity in tech

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury today chaired a new drive to increase the number of young Afro-Caribbean people studying and working in science and engineering.

Less than a fifth of people employed in science professions are black, according to the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry). Over 70 children attended the conference at the London Science Museum where Lord Sainsbury tried to convey the importance of science in tomorrow's world.

"What would the world be like today without science?" asked Lord Sainsbury. "We'd have no cars, no buses, no escalators, nothing. Science and engineering underpins our world today and it's going do so even more in the future."

But it is difficult to determine exactly why Afro-Caribbean people do not figure more in these careers. Many have blamed racism within the education system and the science professions themselves.

"The science sector has not addressed this area before. Racism has been ignored and it's only now that we are desperately trying to resolve this," said Dr Elizabeth Rasekoala, chemical engineer and Director of the African-Caribbean Network for Science and Technology. "We need to start at school level and shake the fuddy-duddy image science currently has."

Nesta, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, has been trying to change the way people look at science. Presenting awards to companies and bodies, which help to promote science.

"We are focusing on linking science with the arts," said Cathy Bereznicki head of special projects at Nesta. "People just don't see creativity as part of science and this is a reason why some children opt for one or the other."

Nesta is also focusing on education software, which it thinks is at a poor level, to convince manufacturers that there is a market for interactive learning software which is currently being neglected.

"Manufacturers don't credit children with enough intelligence. It is just as important for children to be learning through a fun medium at home as it is for them to attend classes at school," said Bereznicki.

Today's campaign also stressed the importance of Afro-Caribbean role models for children to look up to.

"I need to be safe in the knowledge that when I retire you will be there to take over," said Dr Rasekoala to the children who were brought to the event.

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