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Science Museum Group

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, Science Museum Group’s Director of Learning Susan Raikes outlines the importance of encouraging women and girls into careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and highlights some of the many roles available.

Women have long played an important but often unacknowledged role in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). With the UK core-STEM sector growing at a rapid rate, there are now more and more women going into careers in this field, although overall representation remains low. 

Working at the Science Museum Group, I’ve had the privilege to see countless young people coming through the doors of our five museums (pre-pandemic the Science Museum was the most visited museum for UK school trips) and experiencing the wonder of science from a really early age. Despite the obvious delight I see from boys and girls alike, there are still far fewer girls and women choosing to study core-STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) than their male counterparts.  

Data from UCAS shows a slight increase year on year in the number of female graduates with core STEM subjects (26% by 2019), whilst government statistics for the same year show that women represent 24% of the UK’s core-STEM workforce.  

Evidence suggests that 30% is the ‘critical mass’ level at which a minority group becomes able to influence real change.  

At the Science Museum Group we believe passionately that science can be for everyone. The Group’s mission to inspire futures and increase science capital in society and individuals involves understanding and challenging inequalities so that everyone can feel that science is for them.  

By increasing awareness of the breadth of STEM jobs available, we can ensure a greater diversity of people who contribute to and participate in science and innovation, which will create a fairer and more inclusive society.  

In striving towards a gender equal world, it is vital that we celebrate women’s achievements and increase visibility.  

Therefore, on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, with the help of our corporate partners, we are highlighting a few examples of the incredible breadth of opportunities available to girls in STEM careers, as well as the joy and satisfaction these roles bring. 

Chandni Panchal

Name: Chandni Panchal 

Organisation: Cisco 

Job Title: Systems Engineer 

I work in an awesome team called ‘Developer Advocacy’, which focuses on what I like to think of as the ‘cool’ projects. We integrate multiple Cisco technologies together in innovative ways to solve real customer challenges. I also produce a range of events, such as hackathons and training sessions, for the Cisco and external engineering community to build on their programmability skills. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for quantum technology!” Read more about Chandni’s work on her Cisco blog page.

What was your favourite subject at school and what subjects do you need to explore to get into a job like yours?

My favourite subject in school was Maths. I had great teachers and it was always so rewarding to work away at a problem until I finally managed to figure it out. In order to get a job like mine, it’s helpful (but not necessary) to also know some computer science. In particular, networking and programming are the most useful areas.

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

I would say, be bold and have confidence in yourself! Even if there might be more men than women in the career you’re interested in, there’s nothing holding you back from being the most successful and talented person in the room. If you think you’ll enjoy something in STEM, go all in with an open mind and you might just surprise yourself!

 

Åshild Hanne Larsen

name: Åshild Hanne Larsen 

Organisation: Equinor 

Job Title: Chief Information Officer 

“My job is to lead Equinor’s global IT function – and I love what I do! It is exciting to work in the interface between people and technology – and every day, I get to solve problems, deliver improvements, learn and have fun together with great colleagues. Technology will shape our future, and science, engineering and maths will be key in addressing many of the issues the world is facing. But to succeed, we need more women and girls to take on the exciting jobs offered both now and in the future. So, if you want to make a difference and be part of solving tomorrow’s challenges – my best advice is to choose a career in tech!”

Read more about how Åshild is helping to put Diversity and Inclusion high on the agenda at Equinor. 

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject was languages, I have always enjoyed communicating with people and in my job, it is a useful skill because it helps people understand where we are going and how to use technology to be productive and create value.

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that tech is not for girls or that when you work in tech, you spend your time alone in a dark basement in the company of a computer. We work in teams and solve challenges together – and we need people with different backgrounds and perspectives to find the best solutions for the future.

 Alison Pain

Name: Alison Pain 

Organisation: Northern Trust 

Job Title: Chief Technology Officer, Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) 

As part of my role, I provide leadership and guidance to the planning, organization, direction and control of the enterprise technology at Northern Trust in the EMEA region. What I enjoy the most about my role is that every day, I get to connect with different people bringing unique perspectives and ideas. My role is also hugely varied and as the world of technology constantly evolves, it keeps me challenged and seeking the next opportunity.

What was your favourite subject at school?

“Science was my favourite subject. I loved it because it explained how everything works.  Grasping it helps you understand how you can change and influence things.”

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

“Stem subjects are a versatile preparation for almost any job – they open doors because they demonstrate not just the subject matter but an intellectual rigour in how you think and learn. They are the key to an exciting future!”

Becky Patel

Name: Becky Patel  

Organisation: PwC 

Job Title: TechSheCan Education Consultant  

Becky works with the signatory organisations of the TechSheCan charter to create their FREE TechWeCan educational resources. The TechWeCan resources aim to broaden children’s knowledge of careers available in technology and show them how their current passions and hobbies could lead them into a future career in tech. As a teacher, Becky loves her job because she is passionate about encouraging more young women into STEM careers and creating resources for TechSheCan allows her to reach and inspire thousands of children.  

What was your favourite subject at school and what subjects do you need to explore to get into a job like yours?

My favourite subject at school was physics – I loved finding out how things worked and using my creativity to solve problems. It’s a privilege to be able to teach children a subject which you are passionate about as you have the potential to have a real impact on their lives and hopefully inspire them to continue studying and eventually working in that area.

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

I would encourage young women to think about what they are passionate about and research STEM careers which include their skills and passions. There are multiple routes into STEM and such a broad range of different jobs and roles. People are often surprised about the variety of STEM careers they could pursue, even if they don’t necessarily like science, technology, engineering or maths.

Felicia Pinto

Name: Felicia Pinto 

Organisation: Sanofi 

Job Title: Head of Regulatory Affairs UK & Ireland MCO  

As Head of Regulatory Affairs, I provide strategic advice to ensure the timely availability of effective medicines to patients who need them. This requires a deep understanding of the science, as well as the ability to coordinate large teams and get them aligned. I enjoy the strategic, solution-focused mindset that comes with my role but, more importantly, I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with developing, licensing, and providing medicines to improve the lives of patients. 

What was your favourite subject at school and what subjects do you need to explore to get into a job like yours?

At senior school my favourite subject was Science, by Year 10 it was definitely Biology.  For a career in Regulatory Affairs, people traditionally do a life science or chemistry degree with the option of a sandwich-year placement in Industry. However, some people enter without a degree and move upward through on the job experience – this is unusual but not unheard of.

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

Self-belief in your abilities and a strong drive for success is key. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Find a supportive mentor who embodies what you aspire to be.

 Lauren Doyle

Name: Lauren Doyle 

Organisation: URENCO 

Job Title: Residues Engineer 

Lauren works within Urenco’s decommissioning business, creating bespoke solutions to ensure nuclear materials are managed in a safe and sustainable way. 

“I enjoy that the role is highly varied and draws not only on my technical expertise as a chemical engineer, but also commercial, project management and business development skills. Nuclear energy is key to reducing carbon emissions by 2050, and I am proud to be part of the industry.”

What was your favourite subject at school and what subjects do you need to explore to get into a job like yours?

My favourite subject at school was anything that involved research, because I enjoy finding out why things happen and the right information to explain how things work. This involved the sciences, but also design and technology too.

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

STEM careers aren’t just about wearing a lab coat or a high-vis jacket. My career in engineering has involved both, but I’ve also developed systems to monitor energy performance of equipment, established new processes for waste management and even written strategies for the business. There’s so much to get involved with and have a real impact on the world.

 

Kate Whyatt

Name: Kate Whyatt  

Organisation: Waters 

Job Title: Mass Spectrometry Development Manager 

Kate manages a team of scientists who find ways to improve and develop mass spectrometers so that they can make faster, more sensitive, smaller and more reliable instruments.  

“I enjoy my job because I love building prototypes and designing experiments to prove that the prototypes work. I like seeing my work develop into instruments that customers use to make real-life decisions – for example whether food is contaminated or whether drugs they have developed are working correctly. I have enjoyed several different roles within Waters from Global Service to Evaluation Engineering and eventually Mass Spectrometer Development. 

What was your favourite subject at school and what subjects do you need to explore to get into a job like yours?

My favourite subject at school was physics. Subjects that you need to explore to get into my field of work include maths and sciences, more specifically physics, chemistry.

What advice would you give to young women to inspire them to consider a STEM career?

Follow your curiosity and always do what makes you happy.  Take strength in teamwork and accept and act upon feedback. Be brave and embrace your uniqueness.