Chi Onwurah MP


Chi Onwurah MP

Job Title

Shadow minister for Science, Research and Digital

Article Published on

Apr '24

Parliamentary Tech Champion

We need to harness the talents of everyone in this country if we’re going to drive the economic growth this country so badly needs

Before I was an MP, I worked as a Chartered Electrical Engineer for two decades. I’ve now spent over a decade as Engineer and MP in the House of Commons.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an engineer, but I suffered from what I now call Marie Curie Syndrome – the inability to name more than one female scientist or engineer.

At Imperial, I was told I was part of a groundbreaking cohort of women in engineering, paving the way for many more women behind me. But to this day, less than one in five engineers are women, increasing by just 6 percentage points since I was first elected as an MP in 2010.

The problem is much the same across STEM. In digital, only 14% of leaders are female, and only 28% of new hires were women, according to Nash Squared’s Digital Leadership Report. These statistics are startling, and simply not good enough.

We need to harness the talents of everyone in this country if we’re going to drive the economic growth this country so badly needs. Diversity does matter. It is not a tick box exercise. It is an economic imperative.

On International Women’s Day, I was proud to announce Labour’s commitment to a cross-government action plan that will help make careers in STEM more accessible to people from all backgrounds. We need to make sure that government policy is as effective as possible at breaking down barriers to opportunity.

Labour is committed to getting this right for all stages of skills and education. According to a recent YouGov poll, 54% of girls said they did not feel confident learning maths, and 43% said they did not feel confident learning science, compared with just 41% and over 26% of boys, respectively.

That’s why Labour's focus on primary numeracy, announced by Bridget Phillipson at our Conference last year, is so important: a real emphasis on tackling our chronic cultural problem with maths.

And it's crucial that our young people can have not just the dream of a STEM career, but the chance. That's why two key parts of Labour's plan to break down the barriers to opportunity for our young people are funded commitments to deliver professional careers guidance in every school and a full two weeks' worth of work experience for all of our young people.

Labour is also looking at ways we can support women early in their careers to encourage them to stay in STEM. For example, we know that having female mentors can vastly improve career progression in fields where the odds are stacked against them.

Of course, we can’t achieve that unless we have women entering senior positions in STEM industries. This will help us to address the gender pay gap in STEM, and, by extension, society at large.

By focusing on diversity and inclusion within STEM, we will unlock the creative, innovative potential of our whole country to drive growth and prosperity in all parts of the UK. That’s a future worth fighting for.

About the author

Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, and has been an MP continually since 6 May 2010. She currently undertakes the role of Shadow Minister (Science, Research and Innovation).

More Parliamentary Tech Champions

Each month we invite a leading member of the UK’s parliament to share their thoughts on technology and innovation in the UK.

We're ready to help you build a limitless future