#IWD2016: We Can Have More Women in STEM

Happy International Women’s Day!  

I identify as a feminist but not because I believe women are special.  It’s because I believe in equality.  We are all equal regardless of our gender, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age.  In the spirit of equality my first reaction to hearing it is women’s day is ‘when is International Men’s day?’  Thankfully there is one.  It’s on November 19th.  

Women are underrepresented and marginalised in many areas of society.  We are 51% of the population yet still face not only everyday sexism attitudes but overt discrimination too.  

Change is happening but at a snail’s pace.  Women have had the right to vote for nearly one hundred years but only one in four MPs in Westminster are female.  Should we wait another 100 years for parity?

I recently met with Dr Sam Clark (above), a young woman working for the University of the Highlands and Islands.  Her job as STEM manager is to promote study and careers in STEM subjects.  

STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) are notorious for having a huge gender gap.  Half as many women are working in STEM jobs as would be expected if gender representation mirrored the overall workforce.  Those who do manage to get STEM jobs get paid less, on average, than their male counterparts.

Often women graduate in STEM subjects but then they don’t pursue a career in their field of study.  This represents a huge loss to the economy that the Royal Society of Edinburgh estimates to be in the region of £170 million per annum.

Sam and her team want to encourage more young people to study STEM subjects but particularly want to engage with girls and show them how they can succeed in such a male dominated environment.  They are working hard to provide positive role models and lab access.

I worked in a scientific industry myself before I had my family and was fortunate enough to be working with men who saw me as an equal.  If we are going to see real change in our perceptions about gender we need to look to our sons.  We can’t continue telling them to ‘stop crying/hitting/running like a girl’.  

My two boys know that their big sister can do everything that they can.  She is as fast as them, as clever as them and as important as them.  They all know that if they work hard they can achieve whatever they want.  

Writing this blog has been on my to do list today but this international woman is tackling very late in the day (it’s 8pm).  That’s because I have been multi-tasking today as only a mother of three knows how.  I might take a friend’s advice and shout loudly the next time I’m running around like a Tasmanian devil:

"I’ll do the laundry shall I, seeing as I don’t have a penis!"