From the discovery of dark matter to the advent of HIV medication, women in STEM have changed the world. And they have often done so in the face of considerable obstacles and opposition.
The gender balance in STEM has improved, but there is still plenty of work to do. According to the most recent figures released by WISE, the proportion of females in STEM careers is just 21%.
This is an issue that affects every one of us. Science is at its best when it is inclusive and draws from the widest possible pool of talent, because when great minds are allowed to prosper, we all benefit.
A brief history of women in science infographic (click the image for a larger version).
STFC is committed to fostering greater diversity within science. We recognise that equality is about more than simply complying with the law. It’s about creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive community. Diversity allows us to be more creative, more productive and more innovative, but we know it does not come easily. Gender is just one part of achieving diversity. Here we focus on the role of women in STEM.
Throughout the year, we are highlighting the vital role that women have played in advancing the cause of science. We’re also promoting profiles of leading scientists at STFC facilities – neutron physicists, microbiology experts and leading engineers – who demonstrate that, regardless of gender, science benefits from brilliant minds.
Meanwhile, we’re at the forefront of efforts to increase girls’ participation in STEM. Our Science in Your Future careers days give 14-16 year old girls the opportunity find out more about different occupations available to them if they choose to progress with work or study in the field of science.
We will also soon be launching our own bid for the Athena Swan bronze award – a process which involves identifying and challenging the subtle and hidden barriers to female participation in STEM. These barriers may hinder us from fully benefiting from the wider range of skills, experience and attitudes provided by a truly inclusive environment.
At STFC everyone’s talents are valued, we endeavour to deliver our objectives and build a culture of inclusiveness for our stakeholders, for our staff and for the public we serve. Success in our Athena Swan bid will endorse the current work to continue building an agile and sustainable workforce.
The skills, talents and contributions of women are integral to the sciences. We need to broaden access to STEM careers, not just in the name of fairness, but also in the interests of every one of us. We all benefit from scientific progress; we all have a stake in equality. Together, we can and must make it clear that that science is open to all.
We asked 3 STFC scientists to tell us their greatest hopes, achievements & advice. These are their stories. With thanks to Prof Maria Martin-Fernandez, Dr Victoria Garcia Sakai and Amanda Brummitt.
Prof. Marisa Martin-Fernandez is OCTOPUS group leader at the STFC’s Central Laser Facility. Listen to Marisa talk about what inspired her to become a scientist, and what advice she would give the potential scientists of the future.
Dr Victoria Garcia Sakai is a senior scientist at STFC's ISIS facility. Listen to Victoria talk about what inspired her to become a scientist, and what advice she’d give the potential scientists of the future.
Amanda Brummitt is a mechanical project engineer at STFC. Listen to Amanda talk about what inspired her to become an engineer, and what advice she’d give the potential engineers of the future.