“Hey sky, take off your hat – I’m coming for you.”
We need to find a sustainable way to reduce our carbon footprint. We need to provide clean water and nutritional food for every person on the planet. We need medicinal solutions to the many diseases and illnesses that people face. We need algorithms, to understand and project the economic future of our global society. We must explore, to understand the depths of our oceans and the vastness of our skies.
We need Scientists and Engineers.
New perspectives, discussions, innovative thoughts – these drive science and engineering, yet still, many of the top jobs in STEM still belong to men. To truly face the challenges ahead of STEM, we must diversify. We must make STEM careers accessible to all. We must show our young people, that regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation, and background, that they are welcomed, and valued, in STEM. We must empower our young people to believe that they can make a difference, that they can help shape our world through science.
Women make up 21% of the STEM workforce, and just 9% of the engineering workforce. Why is this? This has been discussed in science communication and gender equality circles for a long time. Psychological barriers, maternity rights, out dated perceptions, media stereotypes, discrimination, and imposter syndrome are just some of the reasons that have been banded around and researched. Research by the WISE campaign, ‘Not for People like me’ (2015) showed a difference between young male students and female students that perhaps some of us had been missing. The research shows that young females like to identify themselves using adjectives (who they are), whereas young men showed a tendency to describe themselves using verbs (what they do). What does this mean? Think about the careers advice that is out there, what we say when we talk to young people about our vocation. We say, we are a scientist, we did a degree, and now we work here, and with this machinery, with these people. We focus on WHAT WE DO. Perhaps that needs to change.
“There is a conflict between their self-identity and their perception of a STEM-identity which leads them to conclude that STEM is ‘not for people like me’”
- WISE ‘Not for people like me’ research
People are more likely to pursue certain careers when they can relate to role models within that field. Research shows that the most effective role models and mentors for women are people in the same field of the same gender. Added to that, that women are underrepresented in STEM, and even more so in media and stereotypes – how can female students feel that STEM careers are accessible to them? A lack of role models, and a lack of relatable identity in traditional STEM profiles - this is what I want to challenge.
Women of Science began as an idea discussed with young people during an I’m Engineer Get me Out of Here competition. The idea was to curate a platform on which to share stories of Women in STEM. Not just fact files, but their story - who are they, what kind of person are they, how do they feel about their work, their achievements, their struggles? Creating a human connection, showing their identity through just 4 quotes and photographs to engage, to challenge, and to change perceptions of who scientists are. For young female students to read and think, that’s how I feel, she’s like me – maybe I can be like her.
Alongside the stories, the campaign will also share knowledge and raise awareness through; a facts page to show the most current research around women in stem, blog posts written by me and by other female scientists from across the world, a newsletter, Facebook , Twitter, Instagram – but perhaps the most important aspect to this campaign will be the postcards that will be created from these stories, printed and sent to Widening Access schools across the country. Providing these role models straight to schools who have the greatest need for support and access to resources.
This started as a small way I can look to make a difference, but I have been humbled by the response, the passion, and the support I have received from the STEM community for this campaign. This campaign would not exist without the women who are prepared to be open and honest in sharing their stories, all in the aid of perhaps, just maybe, inspiring and raising the confidence of the young people that read it.
So thank you! Thank you for joining us for our launch, and reading this, my first post. Thank you for supporting this campaign, and taking the time to explore the site. Your support and your generosity power this campaign.
- To share your ideas, story, or other ways in which you can contribute, please get in touch.