FEMALE scientists and those from under-represented backgrounds will be able to mentor their senior colleagues as part of a new initiative to boost diversity.

Durham University is leading a £600,000 project to boost the representation of women, disabled people, LGBT+ and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in engineering and science in the North.

Professor Emma Flynn, programme director and associate provost at Durham University, said: “Engineering and physical sciences are vital industries.

“Yet, for too long there have been sections of our society that aren’t represented sufficiently within these sectors.

“This scarcity has serious consequences: not only is it bad for equality; it limits our collective ability to tackle some of the most pressing and complicated issues facing our world today.”

Research has found that women engineers and physical scientists are underrepresented in all grades, especially in senior academic posts and unequal opportunities, paucity of role models from under-represented groups, and a lack of understanding among senior leaders as to the barriers these groups face all serve to compound the problem.

Durham is part of a consortium of nine universities and six companies which is taking part in the regional project, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The two-year project has six different activities aimed at boosting diversity, including reverse mentoring, where junior staff members from under-represented backgrounds will mentor senior staff about the challenges they face, establishing an online networking platform and collaborating with industry to identify good practice.

It will also analyse which interventions are the most successful.

Prof Flynn added: “We hope this project, and the activities within it, will make a bold step towards a more inclusive culture in these regional sectors, a more diverse pool of talent and creative minds, and, ultimately, better science and engineering that will benefit us all."