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Can the International Day of Women and Girls in Science make a difference?

As today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I thought I would ask people in our office - 'who is your favourite female scientist?'

Safeera Sarjoo
25th February 2016
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Marie Curie was cited as people's favourite female scientist for her discoveries that still have relevance today and her achievement at being the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. At the same time though, those questioned did admit that they found it difficult to name other female scientists, which is indicative of a large scale problem we're facing.

Some of the key themes include ‘Gender and Science’, ‘Improving measurement of gender equality in STEM’, ‘Promoting women’s participation in policy-making processes’ and ‘Women and Girl’s Education.’

The United Nations explained on their website that science and gender equality are both vital for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We have written previously on the lack of women within STEM sectors, however it appears that on an international level, women continue to feel excluded from these industries. The 2030 agenda seeks to highlight the power of science and how it can be utilised as a driver for human rights, dignity, poverty eradication and the protection of the planet – all of which women should be at the helm of. 

Our previous editorials have revealed startling findings within the industry like a previous study revealing Australian female STEM workers quitting the industry after just five years due to challenging work place conditions. Meanwhile in the UK despite having a 47% female workforce, only 13% are attributed to the STEM sectors.

If we are to meet these goals and make a noticeable change to these societal issues, industries and education must invest in women. This isn't merely about creating more opportunities to accommodate the number of women. These positions exist. Approximately 28% of researchers around the world are female. That percentage declines as you move further up the ladder with fewer females in senior positions.

The UN will be commemorating today with a High Level Forum organised by the Royal Academy of Science International Trust and UNDESA. A number of prominent figures within the sector will be giving statements and brief talks. Having a day of observance is great for bringing debate and thoughts forward, but if these speakers and organizers are not walking away from today with some kind of plan to really make a profound difference, then there is an argument that there isn’t much point to this day.

We’re optimistic at Training and Courses though. There are a number of independent organizations that take it upon themselves to invest the time and the effort to providing a platform for girls and women to explore these industries. The Stemettes have been doing fantastic work in engaging girls through events, workshops and mentoring up and down the UK.

To coincide with their third birthday, Stemettes will be launching their flagship app, OtotheB on Saturday 13th February in London. The premise of the app is to provide a global online platform for those interested in STEM subjects and entrepreneurship, which we are sure, will play a part in changing the discourse of how we view STEM subjects.

We love that there is an international day of observation for a gaping hole in an important sector. It should fuel that fire within everyone that is remotely involved to make some kind of a difference or at least set the wheels in motion to doing so. However if we merely talk about this ideal world we envision, rather than act and put words into plans of action, then the cold hard truth is we will never achieve these goals for 2030.

Are workplace conditions not suited to women? Evaluate why this is and take steps to change this.

Do young girls in school feel that science is boring and mainly for boys? Develop a curriculum that stimulates their interest too and expose them to the breadth of opportunities within science.

Do we need more female role models in science? Of course we do – but maybe let’s give existing role models like Nina Tandon and Elizabeth Holmes the recognition they deserve.

Personally, I am of the opinion that if you want change, then you have to do something to achieve it. The Stemettes have taken this approach by developing an app that will unite a global audience. Meanwhile, here at Training and Courses, we continue to work with providers up and down the UK to bring the best courses and apprenticeships within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

However today, all eyes are firmly on the UN. 

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