Browsing Category

Inspiration

Inspiration

Redrawing The Balance

30 March, 2016

There’s an interesting riddle which goes along the lines of:

A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies at the scene and the son is rushed to the hospital.

At the hospital the surgeon looks at the boy and says, “I can’t operate on this boy, he is my son.” How can this be?

Did you figure it out?

The surgeon is his mother.

On hearing the riddle, many people are confused, or take a few seconds to find the answer. The reasoning behind the delay is something that you have likely never even thought about: ingrained gender stereotype. It’s the reason why when you hear of a surgeon, many immediately picture a man, instead of a woman.

Redraw The Balance, a brilliant campaign by leading creative agency MullenLowe London for the charity Inspiring the Future, aims to change this.

Gender stereotypes are defined between the ages of 5 and 7 years old.

When a class of 22 children between the ages of 5 and 7 in the UK were asked to draw a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot, 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 were female. The powerful two minute film depicting this was shot on location at Whitstable Junior School in Kent and captures how, “early on in their education, children already define career opportunities as male and female”. After drawing their images, the children are stunned to see that the women they’d originally been in the classroom drawing images with, are actually a firefighter, surgeon and a fighter pilot.

“Not one person, apart from one girl, put the firefighter down as a female.” – Lucy, Firefighter, London Fire Brigade

Exposing children to a variety of positive role models at a young age is important, especially as girls decide to leave STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Maths) by the age of 11, when they’re in an education system where the choice of subjects severely limits their options for working in other fields later. To encourage more girls to consider a future career in STEM you need to inspire them when they’re young and provide them with tangible, visible role models, to prevent ingrained gender stereotypes from developing.

The British MP Ben Howlett recently spoke regarding the need to encourage girls to consider a career in STEM, “In a survey of girls in 2010 deciding the top 3 careers that they’d choose for themselves, the most popular answers were teachers, hairdressers and beauticians. Traditional female roles. We have to ask ourselves why physicists and engineers weren’t in this list. Only 3% of engineering degree applicants are girls and 6% of the UK engineering workforce are female.”

These are important stats to consider and highlights the importance of the #RedrawTheBalance campaign to show young girls that they too can achieve their career goal, and be a pilot, firefighter or surgeon if they want to be.

The female fighter pilot, firefighter and surgeon also each give an insight into their professional experiences, describing the barriers they overcame and the challenges they still face, doing what many perceive as a man’s job.

On why she became a pilot: “I decided to be a pilot quite a long time ago. I was sitting in a school classroom and the teacher was talking about the countries in the world, saying that there were so many and no-one gets to visit them all. I was feeling quite defiant that day and decided I would, and to do that I had to become a pilot.”

On what advice she’d give other girls wanting to be a pilot: “In my opinion what you need to become a pilot is to be enthusiastic, passionate, driven and to be able. None of those traits are gender specific.” – Lauren, Pilot, Royal Air Force

On how she feels about International Women’s Day: “Now more than ever we need to celebrate women’s achievements and keep pushing women forward. I think in the last few years we’ve probably gone backwards. The kids’ reaction today, although it was great working with them, not one person, apart from one girl, put the firefighter down as a female. That one girl put all the professions down as female, which was great to see, even though it was only one person. I’m really proud of her. So now more than ever we do need International Women’s Day.” Lucy, Firefighter, London Fire Brigade.

“Now more than ever we need to celebrate women’s achievements and keep pushing women forward. I think in the last few years we’ve probably gone backwards.”

On what made her become a surgeon: “I enjoyed surgery and medicine at medical school. I considered all options but I thought surgery was the hardest so I’d go for that first.”

On the call for gender parity: “I feel passionate about the issue of gender parity in surgery. I think that patients deserve to have a wide variety of doctors to choose from in all fields of the profession. So I think that it’s really important that women are represented in all sub-specialties. It’s also particularly important when you’re looking at expertise, now more than half of medical students are women. So if you’re only picking surgeons from 40% of the intake, you’re going to lose out on skilled surgeons.”  Tamzin, Surgeon, NHS

The Inspiring The Future charity is urging people to share the film with friends and colleagues to raise awareness of just how much needs to be done to tackle gender stereotyping, using the hashtag #RedrawTheBalance.

Volunteers can sign up here to make a difference:  www.inspiringthefuture.org and pledge just one hour to talk to children about their career.  Their ambition is to see women from a wide range of occupations going into state schools collectively talking to 250,000 young women.

Inspiration

Interested In The Science of Movies? Apply for Marvel’s New Challenge!

24 March, 2016

Marvel Studios are offering an exclusive internship for one talented budding female scientist!

Along with the release of Captain America: Civil War, Marvel’s “Girls Reforming the Future Challenge is aimed at female applicants who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) and share the same goals as the Avengers team onscreen. Namely, “The commitment to safeguard humanity, protect the earth at all costs and make the world a better place for future generations,” states Civil War actress Elizabeth Olsen, (Scarlet Witch) as she describes the opportunity with her co-star Emily VanCamp. The opportunity is perfect for a budding scientist who’s interested in being “part of more of a creative- and science-based world”.

Girls aged 15 to 18 and in grades 10 through 12, that live in the United States, can submit innovative STEM based projects that they believe can change the world with a short video that demonstrates their idea and explains its far-reaching potential. Marvel, in partnership with the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange, are inviting five lucky smart finalists to California, to allow them to present their projects to a panel of experts AND walk the red carpet at the Civil War movie’s world premiere at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on April 12. The five talented and lucky girls will additionally get the chance to tour Walt Disney Studios and Dolby Laboratories facilities, in addition to receiving a $500 saving account. The grand prize is an exclusive internship at Marvel Studios!

Applications close on 26th March so apply now at CaptainAmericaChallenge.com.

Inspiration

Why I Care About Michelle Obama’s ‘Let Girls Learn’ Campaign

22 March, 2016

With school girls and their teacher in Indonedia

In Indonesia With School Girls And Their Teacher [Copyright, Vinita Marwaha Madill]

I’ve been fortunate to have spent the last 8 months travelling in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Whilst visiting countries including Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia, I became acutely aware of the differences associated with the role of girls in society compared with their male counterparts, in particular places that I visited. Mainly related to the limited jobs available to girls and the lack of access to education. In fact 62 million girls around the world don’t have access to education, education that they need and truly deserve. Michelle Obama and her Let Girls Learn campaign, a US government initiative, are focused on changing that. Having talked to girls in Asia and heard stories of their dedication to gain an education, this campaign means a lot to me.

As the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama writes:

“..this issue isn’t just about access to resources like scholarships, transportation, and school bathrooms. It’s also very much about attitudes and beliefs: the belief that girls should be valued for their bodies, not their minds; the belief that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education, and their best chance in life is to be married off when they’re barely even teenagers and start having children of their own.”

I care because even though I’m from the UK, my Mum was born and raised in India and my Father in Kenya. Having visited both these countries and talked to family, I know how lucky I am to be barely one generation away from having a choice regarding my education and career path. In India, my great-grandmother was married at 13 and similarly with her children, my grandmother. In countries around the world, the belief of treating girls as second-class citizens whilst prioritising the education of male family members still stands.

“Just imagine for a moment what it’s like to be in their shoes. Imagine being a bright, curious young girl with all kinds of ideas about what you want to be when you grow up. And then one day, someone taps you on the shoulder and says, “Sorry, not you. You’re a girl. Your dreams stop here. You have to drop out of school, marry a man 20 years older than you whom you’ve never met, and start having babies of your own.

Think about who — and what — you would be today if your formal education had ended after middle school and you knew only what you’d learned through eighth grade.” – Michelle Obama, LennyLetter.com

Michelle Obama’s much needed campaign is trying to reverse this unjust and culturally-embedded trend by bringing awareness to the fact that 62 million girls around the world do not have access to education, largely due to the attitudes and beliefs of those around them.

We need 100% of the talent available on this planet to reach for the stars and make the next crucial scientific breakthroughs. It’s 2016 not 1916, so together let’s make sure every girl, no matter where she may be born, is both allowed to dream and has the support to reach her dreams, through access to consistent education. Together let’s give girls back their future.

Visit 62MillionGirls.com for more information and to take the pledge to help break down barriers to education for girls around the world, or use the hashtags #62MillionGirls & #LetGirlsLearn.

Inspiration, Science Spotlight

Inspiring The Next Generation During British Science Week

17 March, 2016

Britain's first astronaut, Helen Sharman, with High Tunstall College of Science students in Hartlepool, UK,  launching its STEM initiative. [Hartlepool Mail]

Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, with High Tunstall College of Science students in Hartlepool, UK, launching its STEM initiative. [Hartlepool Mail]

This one’s for the Brits.

British Science Week (11-20th March) is being celebrated around the UK this week, organised by the British Science Association. Fortunately, I’m in the UK at the moment and excited to be attending events, especially those focused on space. One popular event in particular, out of the thousands planned, is the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, the ‘largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK’, through a combination of ‘exciting theatre shows, interactive workshops and exhibits, as well careers information from STEM professionals’. The event runs from 16-19 March 2016 and I’d highly recommend anyone, especially young people, with an interest in STEM to attend!

But why is it so important to inspire the next generation to consider science and engineering?

Well, looking to the future, there is a ‘massive skill requirement for engineering‘ upcoming over the next few years. According to a recent report released this month, one in five schoolchildren would have to become an engineer to fill that gap in the UK. With only 15% of UK engineering graduates being female and only 2% of engineering professionals, encouraging more girls to pursue engineering will help to fill this gap, ensuring that they make up 50% of engineering talent.

But we need more engineers and scientists as a whole. Which is why events such as British Science Week and organisations including Stemettes and STEMNET are so essential, and why Rocket Women exists. Inspiring the next generation to consider a degree in STEM isn’t just a nice idea, but a goal that we need to focus on to ensure the UK, and similarly other countries around the globe, have the talent to fill an increasing need for STEM skills in the future.

Update: An event that I couldn’t miss during British Science Week was the Scanning The Horizon: Space Travel Through The Ages event with TV presenter Dallas Campbell and BBC Horizon Editor Steve Crabtree. It was amazing to see footage from the Horizon’s space archives and I even got to do my first on-camera interview for the British Science Association!

Horizon's recent film about British astronaut Tim Peake's training

Horizon’s recent film about British astronaut Tim Peake’s training

Being interviewed for the British Science Assciation at the Scanning The Horizon event (with BBC's Dallas Campbell on the left)

Being interviewed for the British Science Association at the Scanning The Horizon event (with BBC’s Dallas Campbell on the left)

Inspiration

3 Days Until Glaciology Programme Grant Application Ends

26 January, 2016

Photo of girls in the Alaska program from a trek [University of Alaska Fairbanks - UAF]

Photo of girls in the Alaska program from a trek [University of Alaska Fairbanks – UAF]

Looking for a STEM adventure? Aged 16-18 and love exploring mountain glaciers and alpine landscapes? Then this programme may be for you!

Girls on Ice, a free wilderness education program, is accepting applications now through Jan. 29. Each year, two teams of nine teenage girls and three instructors spend 12 days exploring and learning about mountain glaciers and alpine landscapes in Alaska or Washington through scientific field studies with professional glaciologists, artists and mountaineers

The program helps girls learn about the natural processes that create the alpine world, develop critical thinking skills and explore the connection between science and art. Participants learn how to travel on glaciers, design their own experiments and work as part of a team.

Girls are able to participate in this program tuition-free through small grants, gifts from individuals and support from the National Science Foundation, the Alaska Climate Science Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.”

The University of Alaska Fairbanks website also describes two separate programmes:

  • Girls on Ice Alaska: ‘Designed specifically for girls aged 16 to 18 who are from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Yukon or California. The Alaska expedition runs June 17–28, 2016, and girls sleep under the midnight sun while exploring an Alaska glacier.’
  • Girls on Ice North Cascades expedition: ‘Geared toward girls from all countries aged 16 to 18 and explores Mount Baker, an ice-covered volcano in Washington. The North Cascades expedition runs July 10–21, 2016. To be eligible, girls must be at least 16 years old by June 17 and no older than 18 on July 21.’

The application deadline is 29th January. Apply here and good luck!

Inspiration

Stargazing Lottie Doll Designed By 6-Year-Old Girl Arrives At Space Station

17 December, 2015

UPDATE: Here’s a new photo of the Stargazer Lottie doll on the ISS:

A new photo of the Stargazing Lottie doll in space on the International Space Station (ISS) [22/12/15]

A new photo of the Stargazer Lottie doll in space on the International Space Station (ISS) [22/12/15]

Six-Year-Old Abigail Enthralled By Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield's Sokol spacesuit

Six-Year-Old Abigail Enthralled By Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Sokol spacesuit

Tim Peake, the first British European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut arrived at the ISS on Tuesday 15th December, but he’s also in charge of precious cargo designed by a talented 6-Year-Old space-loving Canadian girl called Abigail. A Stargazer Lottie doll. The doll was created by the European Space Agency and with the help of Lucie Follett, (Creative Director, Arklu). Lucie Follett describes how the company worked with Abigail, “to really create something that reflects Abigail’s ideas of what other kids would like and what gets her excited about all things astronomy related.”

An excited Abigail watching her Lottie Stargazing doll launch to the ISS in December 2015

An excited Abigail watching her Stargazer Lottie doll launch to the ISS in December 2015

The project began as Abigail’s Mum emailed the doll company to thank them for inspiring her daughter through their dolls and convey that she loved interacting with them. Each Lottie doll has a specific activity theme, meant to promote careers to children through their interaction (a fantastic idea!). The Stargazer Lottie doll comes complete with a doll sized telescope, a set of planet cards and as Abigail’s Mum describes is, “wearing clothes that a child would wear to look outside at the stars as well, so she’s a natural companion.” Abigail’s signed book by astronaut Chris Hadfield, her self-proclaimed hero, is her prized possession and her passion for space is apparent, “Sometimes I look up and think maybe I could go up there one day, somehow maybe I could see what’s up there.”

The Stargazer Lottie doll is available now worldwide and would make a fantastic Christmas gift for any young budding astronomers!

Astronauts, How To Be A Rocket Woman, Inspiration

Why The UK Needed A High Profile British Astronaut

15 December, 2015

As a child I was an avid reader and read every space book I could get my hands on. At the age of 6, I remember reading that Helen Sharman was the UK’s first astronaut and had travelled to space a mere 2 years before, in 1991. That moment changed my life. Rather than astronauts being primarily American NASA Shuttle crew that I saw on TV, or hearing stories of the Moon landing 20 years ago from adults around me, suddenly in the image in front of me was a woman in her 20s with short brown hair. A British woman with the Union Jack patch clearly visible on her left arm of her Sokol spacesuit. I had heard of Michael Foale, born in the UK becoming a US citizen to meet NASA Astronaut qualifications, but never of a British astronaut. I didn’t know it was possible. But in that moment looking at the image of Helen Sharman in her Sokol spacesuit, I realised that that woman could be me. Being a girl born at the end of the 80s in the UK I realised right then that maybe, just maybe, I could be an astronaut too. That changed something inside me. Here was a woman in front of me born in Sheffield, who had studied chemistry, replied to a radio advert calling for UK astronauts, beat 13,000 applicants and had recently gone to space.

Helen Sharman recently with her Sokol spacesuit

Helen Sharman recently with her Sokol spacesuit

Even at the age of 6, I didn’t understand why nobody around me was talking about her mission. She had launched only a couple of years ago when I was 3 but I had never heard about it at school or on TV. I didn’t understand why this woman wasn’t treated like a star and talked about everywhere, possibly naively. I managed to find every scrap of information I could find about her. In an age before the internet I went to library after library (shuttled by my parents), reading about her story in small paragraphs as part of a larger book on space. What she was to me, even though I didn’t know it yet, was a role model. She had showed me that my dreams were possible. Even when I had wonderful supportive parents and teachers encouraging my interests, space went from an interest over the next few years to a career. Knowing that there had been a British astronaut, female at that, helped me push through any negativity around my chosen career path when I was younger. Even if the career councillor at school wanted me to become a dentist, I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut, or at least work in human spaceflight. And eventually I did, even working with the next British ESA astronaut Tim Peake at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany along with supporting astronauts on the ISS. But I wouldn’t have had that impetus and drive if I hadn’t known that someone had come before me. There had been a female British astronaut and maybe there could be again. Here was a British woman involved in human spaceflight and that had flown to space. It was possible.

The importance of role models at a young age is immeasurable. Which is why I’m so excited for Tim Peake’s flight and the fact that Helen Sharman is finally being talked about 24 years on from her mission. The outreach for Tim’s Principia mission by the UK Space Agency has been amazing and has the highest budget of any ESA astronaut mission. Tim and his Principia mission will hopefully go on to inspire the next generation to reach for the stars and follow their dreams in space, knowing that it is indeed possible.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream at the age of 23. Working with Astronaut Tim Peake at the European Space Agency's (ESA) European Astronaut Centre (EAC).

Fulfilling a lifelong dream at the age of 23. Working with Astronaut Tim Peake at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Astronaut Centre (EAC).

Today the first British European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Tim Peake launched to the ISS with London’s Science Museum hosting 2000 jubilant children following his every move. Simply fantastic. In less than 5 years the UK has gone from not contributing to Human Spaceflight through ESA, to having a high profile British astronaut launch to the ISS supported by a sustainable National Space Strategy, a first for the UK. That’s something to be proud about. Tim’s carrying a whole nation’s dreams with him but most importantly inspiring thousands of children to consider a career in space and follow in his footsteps. I wonder how many children watched the launch today and decided that they wanted to be the next Tim Peake?

A smiling Tim Peake, First British ESA Astronaut, gives a thumbs up launching to the ISS on 15th December 2015

A smiling Tim Peake, First British ESA Astronaut, gives a thumbs up launching to the ISS on 15th December 2015

Inspiration

New Scholarships For Women In STEM

26 November, 2015

Scholarship VG

Dreaming of being a pilor? This could be you! [Virgin Galactic]

If you or someone you know are looking to study an undergraduate degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) then there are 2 scholarships that you should consider!

Cards Against Humanity – Science Ambassador Scholarship

The popular card game Cards Against Humanity are funding a full tuition scholarship for a woman seeking an undergraduate degree in science, engineering or maths. To apply submit a 3 minute video here of your awesome self explaining a science topic that your passionate about. The review panel will be is refreshingly ‘a board of fifty women who hold higher degrees and work professionally in science and engineering’ according to the Science Ambassador website. Once through this round, 10 finalists will submit additional materials for a chance at winning the scholarship and receive full tuition coverage for up to four years. Uniquely the scholarship is being funded through purchases of the Cards Against Humanity expansion Science Pack with the current total raised of US$546,724 and counting! The deadline to apply is December 1st, 2015. Good luck!

Virgin Galactic – Galactic Unite Flying Tigresses Scholarship

Virgin Galactic are providing a one-time scholarship award of $2,200 to a collegiate or early-career woman establishing a career in aerospace with a belief that ‘aviation and being a pilot is key to her career and personal mission’. In addition to the scholarship, the award recipient will have access to mentoring opportunities and other Galactic Unite educational programs in partnership with Virgin Galactic.

The origins of the Galactic Unite Flying Tigresses Scholarship began through Anne Marie Radel and Margaret Viola’s participation as “Team Flying Tigresses” in the 2015 Air Race Classic. An amazing all-women’s transcontinental air race stemming from the 1929 Women’s Air Derby. These inspirational women flew with the intention of raising awareness and support for women in STEM careers, women pilots, and the emerging commercial space industry. The deadline for the scholarship is November 30th, 2015 and can be applied for here.

Astronauts, Inspiration

The Martian’s Jessica Chastain Discusses Lack Of Women In Space

14 September, 2015

At the recent Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) premiere of the highly anticipated movie The Martian, actress Jessica Chastain, who plays Captain Melissa Lewis, the Mars mission commander, took time to highlight the lack of women in space.

“Around 10% of astronauts are women, which seems low to me. In our film, out of a crew of six, two are women, which is great. If you look in our future, our interpretation says that we’re moving towards equality. But how great is it to get to play the commander of first manned mission to Mars.” When the reporter exclaimed that we’d ‘already made it’, in relation to the equality of women in space, Jessica stated, “Well, we’re not there yet in reality, but it’s pretty great in the film.”

"As a female you don't have to be like a man, you just have to be the leader of a team and recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of your crew." - NASA Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson

“As a female you don’t have to be like a man, you just have to be the leader of a team and recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of your crew.” – NASA Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson

Jessica Chastain also worked with NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson to prepare for her role. Tracy explained, “We spent half of a day together training in the same facility that I’m in everyday, just talking about what it’s like to live and work in space and what it’s like to lead a team of people. But when it came to being a commander, she asked specifically are you more like a director, do you tell people what to do, or do you sit back and let them do the work. So we talked about, as a female you don’t have to be like a man, you just have to be the leader of a team and recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of your crew.”

If it’s anything like the book it’s based on, The Martian will hopefully not only be gripping and one of the most scientifically accurate space exploration movies to date, but predict a believable future in which humans set foot on Mars, alongside making strides in the representation of women in the astronaut corps, inspiring the next generation to do just that along the way.

Inspiration

1000 Female STEM Mentors Inspiring 1000 Girls

29 July, 2015
1000 GIRLS, 1000 FUTURES

1000 GIRLS, 1000 FUTURES

Who inspired you when you were younger? Your teacher? Your parents? If you’re a student, who inspires you now to make those difficult decisions about your future? 1000 girls in high schools around the world are about to get the chance to be inspired and ask their questions to 1000 women in STEM through the impactful 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program,  an incredible new initiative from  the Global STEM Alliance (GSA). The GSA is ‘an international initiative of more than 90 partners and 50 countries—a collaboration of governments, corporations, educational institutions, and nongovernmental organizations—working together to assure the next the generation of STEM innovators’. The program is currently calling for female mentors in STEM fields GLOBALLY to sign up to the program, which will run from September 2015-September 2016. As having been a mentor myself for girls, I can tell you that it’s extremely rewarding and means a lot to each and every girl that you can impact, a reason why I started Rocket Women. Girls that sign up to the program will be able to directly contact a successful woman currently working in a STEM field to mentor them, along with an entire network of mentors and mentees globally!

If you’re a women working in a STEM field and would like to make a meaningful impact to the future of a girl, SIGN UP!

If you’re a girl considering a STEM career but don’t quite know how, SIGN UP!

Girls decide at the age of 11 to move away from sciences, making the work of this program critical to inspire these girls around the world. Essentially it’ll provide them with tangible female role models, allowing them to speak to someone who has already achieved career  success in their STEM field and understands that they’re make the hardest decisions in their education. The numbers speak for themselves. Only one in five UK A-level physics students are female, a figure that has not improved in 20 years. STEM subjects also accounted for 35% of the higher education qualifications achieved by women in 2010/11, a decrease since 2006. This program and others are increasingly important to show the next generation of girls that there is a bright and exciting future for them in science!