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 spoke at the European Space Agency in Paris in July 2016 about the ways to encourage more women into STEM (science / technology / engineering / maths).
“…We wanted to create something that would help to spread the word about what these women had done for science. So, we created a series of limited edition postcards featuring hand-drawn designs of Katherine Johnson, Margaret Hamilton and Jocelyn Bell Burnell…”
Same genes, different career aspirations
As another International Women’s Day approaches, I think back to my time as a young girl, running around the garden with my twin sister. I would never have imagined that the world was trying to shape us to fit the mould of a ‘stereotypical woman’.
As Ellie and I grew up, I became aware that certain things were expected of us and our careers, as people began to assume that our aspirations fitted typical ‘jobs for women’. And, because we were identical twins, people expected that our career aspirations were the same. However, we had a barrier helping to protect us against this – our parents.
Our parents encouraged us to do what we loved, and showed us the wide variety of career paths we could choose from. Because of this, Ellie and I are similar in many ways, but not in our occupations. Ellie is a talented artist, running an online business selling custom dolls, and I am a science blogger; two careers that many would consider at opposing ends of the spectrum.
Gender stereotyping starts early
Girls are often taught to stick to stereotypical aspirations for women, and this leads to the male and female dominated occupations that we can see in sectors like STEM. In fact, this starts incredibly early on in life, with children as young as three years old already making decisions on what they think they are capable of, based on their gender.
Ellie and I have been able to achieve our dream careers because we have been encouraged from a young age. So, we decided to partner up and we launched a project together for the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We wanted to use both of our passions, to help young girls realise their true potential and raise awareness for amazing women in STEM.
Spreading the word
On 11th of February, a day marked to discuss the lack of women in science, we launched our series of postcards featuring prominent women in STEM. We wanted to create something that would help to spread the word about what these women had done for science. So, we created a series of limited edition postcards featuring hand-drawn designs of Katherine Johnson, Margaret Hamilton and Jocelyn Bell Burnell.
We are encouraging people to send these postcards to their friends and family all over the world, to encourage them to find out about these influential women, to raise awareness for the ground-breaking work that they have done – which is sadly often forgotten or overlooked.
The proceeds from the project will then be donated to Science Grrl to support their projects which helps shape public policy surround women in science in the UK, and helps to encourage girls into STEM.
We wanted to start a project that would help girls realise their true potential, and make them aware of the world of careers that they can choose from. Because, when I think back to Ellie and I sat in our classroom thinking about our dream careers, I want other little girls to also believe that they can do whatever they want – anything from science to art.