Alice Gray is a neuroscience graduate from Cardiff University, who since graduating has been committed to the cause of improving the representation of women in science and scientific engagement. She set up the Mind-ful blog in 2013, which discusses a variety of topics surrounding the issues that face women in science, and she was named alongside famous sports icons, international politicians and campaigners in BBC’s 100 Women project in 2015, on a list of 100 inspiring women. Alice has been invited to speak at the European Space Agency in Paris in July about the ways to encourage more women into STEM (science / technology / engineering / maths).
“…In university I started my blog … out of frustration. I became aware of the barriers I faced as a woman in STEM industries, and from my student bedroom I began to work to raise awareness for gender inequality in science. I didn’t think anyone would be listening … but they were…”
Pushing the boundaries and exploding myths
Around 12% of UK scientists are women, and just 9% of the engineering workforce. With such a low representation of women in these industries, it would be easy to feel like this would be impossible to change. However, women in STEM (science / technology / engineering / maths) are pushing the boundaries to explode myths and challenge misconceptions.
Women have been working together to bring down the barriers which hold them back in science and engineering by constructing their own organisations and hosting engaging events to raise the profile of female volunteers. Groups like ScienceGrrl, Stemettes and Soapbox Science are promoting the public image of women in science by addressing the issues from the ground up.
Changing the way people see women in science
They have been gathering momentum from a grass-roots level, generating discussion about the factors which lead to a loss of women in science and supplying role models for future generations. They are using engagement within the community to raise the profile of women in STEM and debunk myths – changing things for women in science by changing the way people see women in science.
It’s sad but true that 70% of the world still associates being a scientist with being a man, but by creating pathways for women in STEM to engage with the community and share their research, these organisations are helping to readdress the balance. They are creating spaces for women in science to be seen and repositioning women by making them the public face of science, thereby combatting the misconception that ‘women just don’t do science’.
These initiatives address issues by sending out a unified voice for women in STEM, and the women behind these projects have been shaping public policy. Women are working tirelessly to grow their public profile, as well as weighing in on governmental inquiries and providing research into the factors that contribute to the leaking talent pipeline.
Born of frustration: Getting our message heard
Scientists are tackling the issues head on, combatting the factors that lead to a loss of women in science. They are refusing to give up the fight and are helping to ensure that every woman and girl reaches their full potential. And STEM organisations are listening to what we have to say.
In university, I started my blog out of frustration. I became aware of the barriers I faced as a woman in STEM industries, and from my student bedroom I began to work to raise awareness for gender inequality in science. I didn’t think anyone would be listening … but they were.
Since I started my blog, the interest has been huge and I have taken part in governmental inquiries into STEM industries and worked with amazing organisations in Wales and beyond to help address the loss of women in science.
In 2014 I gave evidence at the National Assembly for Wales’ Business and Enterprise committee’s STEM inquiry. I was able to advise the Business and Enterprise committee on how the Government could implement teaching strategies and support for women in STEM to increase the number of women in science in Wales.
And now my work is taking me to France.
Lecturing at the European Space Agency
In July I will be flying to Paris to give a lecture to the staff at ESA (the European Space Agency). The ESA hosts monthly lectures for their staff to expand their world to topics beyond space, and I have been invited to discuss the issues that face women in STEM to encourage staff to think about what they as an organisation can do about it.
Over 2,200 staff operate in the 22 member states in the European Space Agency, all working in areas of science, engineering and information technology. Each of these industries has issues with underrepresentation of women, and therefore it is vital that these issues are discussed. By engaging with projects about women in STEM, large organisations can contribute to the movement, building on the foundations that have been laid by women who are advocates for gender equality in STEM.
Bringing women in science to the forefront of discussion
The Beyond Space lectures aim to encourage the staff at the ESA to think of topics outside their everyday work. Featuring a talk about women in STEM industries will bring the representation of women in science to the forefront of the discussion, will encourage staff to look around and appreciate the women working at the ESA, together with the obstacles they have had to overcome.
As women in STEM work to bring down the barriers that they face, it is vital that STEM organisations assist in dismantling them. By inviting me to take part in their lecture series, they are helping to take the discussion of women in STEM beyond space.
I’ve been preparing for several weeks and I can’t wait to share my experiences with an international audience. I’ll be tweeting and blogging about my visit so please do follow my adventures – details are below.