Marching for Science

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Marching for Science 

Lucy Woods2Thanks to help from Young Women’s Trust I am continuing to pursue my dream career of being a freelance writer specialising in energy and environment. I get to talk to lots of really interesting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields about climate change and the environment.

Using the Work It Out coaching service from YWT helped boost my confidence and focus so I could make effective plans and achieve my goals. I'm also going to be continuing my studies in climate change this September, thanks to free feedback on my application from Young Women’s Trust. 

On 22nd April 2017 the scientific community took to the streets, marching from the Science Museum to Parliament Square as part of the London March for Science.  I was there to report on the event with a focus on women in science – here’s what I learned.

The march was completely accessible for all and organisers of the march worked with diversity advisors from the start of the campaign to make sure that women in STEM were represented.

“Diversity matters; it matters for doing good research,” author Angela Saini told me.

I met Helen Czerski, a physicist, oceanographer and supporter of the grassroots campaign group, ScienceGrrl who said that girls looking to go into STEM careers should “just go for it!”

While there are “lots of diversity issues in science, on gender, sexuality and ethnic background” Helen said, it is “important to say science needs diverse opinions, the broadest perspective is needed.”

Science blog co-ordinator for The Guardian, Pete Etchells echoed these comments, telling thousands gathered in Parliament Square that “science is for everybody.”

“We have to be more inclusive and more diverse. Then the quality of research will be better and the questions asked will be more interesting,” Pete said. “We are not just old white men with crazy hair and lab coats; anyone can be a scientist.”

I spoke to Andrew Steele, chair of the science advocacy group, Science is Vital, who urged those interested in STEM subjects to “get involved and help out. Join up! We always need more volunteers. Turn up, sign a petition, it might not seem like much individually but collectively it makes a big difference.” 

Statistics for February 2017 found that women make up just 25% of the UK’s STEM graduates, and only 21% of the UK’s STEM workforce

YWT research found that for every 25 men applying for engineering apprenticeships, only one woman is applying, women also get paid lower hourly wages for all apprenticeships. 

There is an estimated 40,000 UK STEM jobs left vacant due to a lack of skilled workers. This is known as the ‘skills gap’. Employers say the STEM skills gap is threatening UK businesses

Discouraging anyone from science and engineering is “the most dangerous thing” says Angela Saini, as science and engineering “is what builds industries and makes economies strong.” 

To help fill the STEM skills gap Helen Czerski says scientists need to be having conversations with everyone around them, in person or on social media. “The more conversations that happen, the more we can include everyone.”

As a young woman involved in science I feel that employers need to be far more proactive and vigilant in attracting, welcoming and attaining the many talented young women qualified for, and contributing to STEM fields - with childcare facilities, closing the pay gap and fighting sexism in the workplace.

To other young women working in science, I would advise creating a support network for yourself by joining unions and associations (or create your own!), and reaching out to mentors and coaches.