Today marks the 7th year of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, first declared by the United Nations in 2015 in order to promote full and equal access and participation for women and girls in science.
Over the past decade, the global community has been making conscious efforts to inspire women and girls all around the world. This awareness day is an opportunity to celebrate the essential role that women and girls play in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).
Why is this day important?
This day is a reminder of the accomplishments of women and girls in STEM careers. It gives us the chance to raise awareness and promote gender equality.
Gender equality has always been at the top of the agenda for the United Nations, and the empowerment of women will make a key contribution to the economic development of the world.
In 2011, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted a report with agreed conclusions on access and participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology, and for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment.
This day continues to be crucial for shouting out about our women in STEM, as one individual could inspire the next generation.
What is the theme this year?
The official theme this year is “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”. According to the UN, billions of people around the world will be unable to access safely managed household drinking water and hygiene services in 2030 due to climate change, rising demand and failure to conserve water resources.
On the 11 February, there will be a virtual event held by the UN that will bring together women and girls in science and experts around the world who will play a vital role in developing a sustainable water-energy nexus and progress towards the achievement of SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation).
STEM leaders at University Centre Leeds
To understand what a typical day in STEM looks like, we spoke with Dr. Annie Carr, who is the Programme Manager for Higher Education Science Apprenticeships at University Centre Leeds.
What do you do during the day which is STEM-related?
“I manage and teach higher education STEM programmes. This includes teaching, writing materials and working with external interests such as employers. I keep current with material by reading, subscribing to conference materials and through talking with other members of the department including sharing resources and ideas.”
What does a typical day look like in your role?
“I arrive ready to work with students on their projects and to deliver lectures and practical activities on specialist science modules. There are often discussions and internal and external meetings about STEM, particularly apprenticeships.”
How did you get into STEM?
“I was a scientist with an international research career, but found this untenable after becoming a parent. After a career break, I wanted to use my STEM experience again and trained as a teacher. I then wrote programmes to support regional objectives and offer a high quality experience in the region, drawing diverse learners into STEM careers.”
Have you done any interesting STEM-related activities recently?
“As well as group practical work for teaching, I am working with both the final year BSc (Hons) and MSc Biosciences students on their individual projects. Every student completes a piece of original research, which involves them writing and presenting a journal article.”
Why do you think it’s important for more women to get into STEM?
“STEM is a growth area in the region and elsewhere; there will be lots of jobs and careers in this field in the coming years, so it’s a fantastic time for women and girls to get into STEM.”
Have you got any advice for girls wanting to pursue a career in STEM?
“Some areas of STEM now have higher proportions of women, but others still have low numbers. For those areas, you will still need to be resilient to succeed. Join the WISE partnership as soon as you can, it is a campaign which aims to achieve gender equality in STEM by driving diversity in sectors across the UK.”
What do you enjoy most about working in STEM?
“I love supporting the success of students and watching them transform through education.”
What does a lesson look like when STEM is infused?
“All of my lessons are STEM! We have fun, become confident and empowered by learning and developing to meet achievable challenges. We work across a range of activities including formal lectures, discussions, online tasks and laboratory practicals. Students should expect to be surprised, challenged and enthused by what they learn.”