I’ve always been incredibly proud of my previous career in the science industry, and am learning to take the same pride in my new found work as a blogger. But what if somehow I could link the two? Wouldn’t that be the dream? As a parent of two daughters, let me start by talking about the importance of Women in science.
Despite my previous workplace being a female dominated environment, the senior management team was heavy on the guys. That was something that always baffled me. And the engineering department workshop floor? In seventeen years I never once saw a female engineering technician. The shift was changing however, and there were so many incredibly talented, inspiring, strong women rising up through the ranks. Women who were something to behold, who knew their stuff and moved mountains to make things happen, and plenty of women who were also mothers, for the record. One remarkable female site director was one of the strongest and fiercest women I ever met; powerful, intelligent yet also with a warm exterior and personality which undoubtedly carried her far. Although I chose the closure of our workplace to take a career break, whilst my family were young, many of those women have gone on from strength to strength in their science careers. Others have found it harder to find work in an equivalent environment, and some have found that cultures in other science and tech companies had a underwritten culture of prejudice against women in the workplace.
In the science industry to date, the stats say that women choosing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects are still in the minority. The WISE campaign (Women In Science and Engineering) released figures that were moving in a positive direction, however still just 23% of the workforce in STEM being female in 2017.
I remember at the GEEK festival earlier this year, hearing a intelligent young student tell us she was the only girl in her computer course at college. That seems so unbelievable in this age of women challenging inequality.
So as a mum to two bright little girls, how can I encourage them to be women in science of the future? Should that be a path they choose?
To be passionate about science is to have a drive to probe and question. How things work, why that happened, and could it be done differently.
With small kids, often they accept life as it is, but as they grow and start to wonder about all the mysteries of the world around them, have open discussions about the incredible going’s in behind the scenes. The bridges you drive over, the change in the seasons, the rain falling from the sky; it’s all down to science.
Read Fact Books
We all know how important reading is with children, but have you mixed up your Julia Donaldson with something a little different? There are some amazing fact books for children which open up a totally different reading experience – a thirst for information and a source of knowledge that will take your kids a long way. It doesn’t have to be dull, tap into their passions… dinosaurs, Great women, children’s encyclopedias; the pictures and facts are lapped up by young minds and will be the beginnings of a lifetime of learning.
Teach a love of nature
At a basic level, to love science is to love the world around you. What better way than to show your children a respect and passion for the environment and the natural world.
You don’t need to go to great lengths – planting a few seeds on a windowsill and watching them grow, or creating a small bug hotel out of dead wood and bark are great activities to inspire young minds.
Talk openly about our responsibility to look after our planet, and to limit how we damage it. After all, we are raising the future generation who will have to face huge challenges in our planets resources, and come up with new sources of energy.
Embrace Science, Maths and IT
There’s no getting away from the fact that as a scientist, engineer or technical career, a solid basis begins at the grass roots of some of the less than fluffy subjects at school. Despite perhaps feeling there is little to get excited about when it comes to long multiplication, as a parent it will serve your kids well to engage, encourage and support their learning in these subjects. Help them to see the sense and sensibility in the ability to work through a tricky set of trigonometry, or an arse of an algebra quiz. And, to dispel that age old myth ‘I’m never going to use algebra’, I can tell you, in a career in STEM, it’s at the very core of what we do.
Tap in to external resources
For this generation of children, there are a wealth of resources that weren’t around a few decades ago. The internet for one, but also after school kids science clubs, science fun workshops, and mad science birthday parties. These interactive sessions for kids are a fantastic way to get children excited about science and technology, and are often run in local communities over the school holidays. Of course there are also the national museums which are free to enter, and aside from being educational, are a fantastic way to inspire minds of the future.
Of course, whose to say our daughters will even want a career in science or technology, but for any wealth of reasons they may not, let’s ensure one of those reasons will not be because of their gender.