by Rebecca Nesbit, Press Officer at the Society of Biology
Not only is this week a very successful first Biology Week, it is also a good week for gender equality in science.
In 2010 UKRC/WISE reported that only 12.3% of the skilled workforce in science, engineering and technology are women, a disturbing figure. The problem starts early, with more boys than girls taking GCSE sciences, and in academia it gets worse higher up, with too few women progressing through the career ladder.
How do we change this? There’s no one answer, but inspiring young people is essential. This week, we see the results of an ambitious project to showcase the diversity of career opportunities available to women in science: the ScienceGrrl Calendar. The calendar is launched today, with the months of 2013 all illustrated by pictures of women (and men) with scientific careers.
What I like most about the calendar is that it isn’t just about girl power. The tagline ‘because science is for everyone’ sums up its message of gender equality, and the pictures reflect this. The March image is of four men, each of them holding up a photo of famous female scientists who have inspired them. July is a scene of fieldwork, with two men and two women working alongside each other, clearly having fun. Science is a collaborative effort and, as with so many things, a diversity of ages, genders and backgrounds make an effective team.
As well as a diversity of people, a diversity of careers are covered. From a medical physicist to an entomologist, the planners have been careful to represent the sheer variety of careers in STEM subjects. A star appearance is made by the Society of Biology’s president, the inspiring Dame Professor Nancy Rothwell, whose research group are studying potential treatment for strokes.
Many scientists are driven by their belief in the importance of their work – and by covering topics such as fuel cells and climate modelling the calendar illustrates the value of science jobs to society. This, to me, is overcoming some of the flaws in other attempts to attract girls into science: rather than taking ‘what we think teenage girls like’ as a starting point, they have explored ‘what is attractive about science’.
For more women in science excitement this week – you can join a Wikipedia editing day on Friday.