In 2019, for the first time ever, the number of women in the UK working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles reached over one million, representing an increase of over 350,000 in the last ten years.
Ensuring a greater diversity within STEM, attracting more women and girls to study STEM subjects and to continue in the field and achieve successful careers, is critical for the development of a future workforce, the growth of our economy and the ability to contribute to our communities and solve real world issues.
This year, for International Women’s Day and British Science Week, we are celebrating our colleagues who are smashing gender stereotypes and helping to shape the future of STEM across Human and Life Sciences, Engineering, Computing and Forensics.
Canterbury Christ Church University STEM academics
Female colleagues across the University are working on a wide variety of subjects and projects including, using venom for cancer treatments, using chemistry to uncover hidden fingerprints, mammal embryology, biofuels, sustainable solutions, cyber security and advanced manufacturing with lasers. Nearly 50% of academic staff in the School of Human and Life Sciences are female, and nearly 40% are female in the School of Engineering, Technology and Design.
In 2017 the University announced it would be developing the Kent and Medway Engineering, Design, Growth and Enterprise EDGE Hub, a major initiative designed to support the regional economy by addressing higher level skills shortages in STEM subjects. At the same time the University announced that a new range of Engineering courses designed with specialist engineering and technology businesses would soon be available to study, with the aim of creating a sustainable and diverse regional talent pool of graduates, including 30 to 35% women graduates by 2024.
"STEM is becoming progressively more gender balanced. At Canterbury Christ Church University we are doing everything we can to reposition it, including changing perceptions of the professions and education of physics, science and engineering. Developing more role models, profiling achievements so girls and women can ‘see themselves’ in the roles, and crucially showing students how important engineering is to our society and our world; how it is everywhere and everything - the foundations of advancement and the solution to our future problems.
“Working in STEM offers fantastically diverse career options, creates life chances and gives you control. It has been amazing to be part of new innovations, manufacturing processes, building missile launchers, designing satellites and educating the future generations. It is hugely rewarding."
Dr Asma Ahmed is a senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences, specialising in research that looks at the biological conversion of agricultural and industrial waste and wastewater to biofuels and other products. She said: “As scientists and engineers we get to create knowledge rather than just learn about it. Being in STEM means being at the forefront of solving some of the biggest problems the world currently faces. By spreading awareness of the changing STEM environment and the opportunities it can provide for young women will hopefully help more decide to explore STEM as a career choice. The goal should be to reach a point of pure choice - beyond bias, beyond stereotypes and beyond the need for women in STEM events!”
Dr Man Xi is a Senior Lecturer in computing. Her research interests include intelligent computing and applications and cyber security. She said: “Becoming a scientist was a dream of my childhood. The infinite possibilities of computers and the ever-evolving amazing developments in computer technologies have been a driving force for me to strongly believe that computer science and technology is an amazing subject.
“STEM is practical work that can produce real and rapid effects. When working in a certain area of computing, even a small achievement can make me feel very proud. Computing and engineering certainly can make your dream a reality. I don't see any reason why women are not taking STEM as a career and would sincerely welcome more women students to study with us.”
This year's International Women's Day campaign sates “an equal world is an enabled world…collectively, we can make change happen.” Together we can challenge stereotypes, expand horizons, broaden perceptions and celebrate women’s achievements.