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Women in STEM

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I attended a Girls’ Grammar School and studied all three sciences – Physics, Chemistry and Biology – but, when I was 16, the new ‘Comprehensive System’ in England affected my education, and I found myself in a huge mixed-gender school, the merger of three separate local schools, and the only girl in an Advanced Level Physics class. My first experience of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) just being for the boys!

Having said that, I think as I chose Biomedical Sciences as a profession, I was not particularly affected throughout my career by stereotypes, especially as Hematology my specialist discipline, had many females. The Biochemistry departments seemed to have more male staff, who I assume were attracted by the huge complex autoanalyzers. I had to work across multiple pathology disciplines for the out-of-hours emergency service though, so did get to operate those as well.

Along with established laboratory posts, I undertook a number of ‘locum’ positions, e.g., in Brussels – for SmithKline Beecham (now GSK) on a global clinical trial; the Orkney Islands; and hospitals in and around London.

When I returned to university in my 30s, to study to become a Science Teacher, I deliberately took all the Physics modules available, because I knew that I would always be employed if I could offer Physics. I taught all three Sciences from 11 to 16 years, and to Sixth Form – Biology ‘A’ Level, Health and Social Care, and Advanced Vocational Certificate in Education Mechanics – and relished this, as much of it is Math, which I enjoy.

The British Council state that a STEM workforce is crucial to India’s economic development and social welfare, but that women are underrepresented in STEM careers. “Although women constitute 40 percent of science undergraduates in India, only a fraction move into successful academic careers and even fewer reach top positions in research and administration. This results in a loss of talented workforce.’’ Having said this, only 24 percent of the STEM workforce in the UK consists of women, though this is predicted to rise to 29 percent by 2030.

“The British Council state that a STEM workforce is crucial to India’s economic development and social welfare, but that women are underrepresented in STEM careers”

“Science graduates have been – and will continue to be – at the forefront of tackling many of the world’s greatest challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change”

According to the National Science Foundation, it is predicted that 80 percent of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of Maths and Science skills, and females will need to take up these opportunities.

Science graduates have been – and will continue to be – at the forefront of tackling many of the world’s greatest challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic to climate change. Careers are varied, and those in current demand globally include Audiologist, Biochemical Engineer, Climatologist, Computer Systems Analyst, Cybersecurity Specialist, Data Scientist, Dental Hygienist, Doctor (Medical), Endocrinologist, Forensic Science Technician, Genetic Counsellor, Hematologist, Information Security Analyst, Math Teacher, Nanosystems Engineer, Occupational Therapist, Patent Lawyer, Robotics Technician, Statistician, Surgeon, Veterinarian, Virtual World Creator, Wind Energy Engineer, and many more.

Certainly, I have no regrets about the choices I have made. I have always received a good salary, been respected in an interesting job role of value to society, which has also sometimes allowed me to travel.

Joy Garner has a career spanning 40 years that has included International Student Recruitment, AIDS Research, and teaching sciences in some particularly challenging schools. She was educated at Richmond High School for Girls in Yorkshire and has undergraduate degrees in Biomedical Sciences and Science Education, plus postgraduate degrees in Management and Education, all gained from universities in the North of England, whilst raising her children locally. She is currently with Twin Group, London, an award-winning provider of Education, Training and Career Development, researching and writing proposals for a post-pandemic recovery in the UK.

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