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Science

Inspiration

Confidence Is The Missing Key Factor

5 May, 2017
#BeBoldForChange was the theme to this year's International Women's Day. This great infographic by Trade Machines FI GmbH introduces the difficulties women have to face when deciding to enter the highly male-dominated field of engineering - an explanation for why only 13% of US engineers are female. (Copyright Trade Machines FI GmbH)

#BeBoldForChange was the theme to this year’s International Women’s Day. This great infographic by Trade Machines FI GmbH introduces the difficulties women have to face when deciding to enter the highly male-dominated field of engineering – an explanation for why only 13% of US engineers are female. (Copyright Trade Machines FI GmbH)

We may be aware of the fact that women are under-represented in STEM fields, but seeing the exact numbers of female representation is still startling: on average women comprise 19% of STEM students and 20% of engineering students in the United States. Other tech-related fields attract even fewer women. Women within electrical engineering fields represent solely 12% of the students while within computer sciences only 10%.

When it comes to engineering, not only are fewer women choosing these study fields than men, but it turns out, that even after finishing college 35% of women either choose to not enter the field or leave eventually, while this number is 10% for men. So what could be the reason behind this worldwide trend?

The American Sociological Association released a study (pdf) with the title ‘Women Aren’t Becoming Engineers Because of Confidence Issues’. The study pointed towards the lack of ‘professional role confidence’ as an issue for female engineering students. This eludes to female students not having as much confidence in their engineering competence as their male counterparts and doubting the fact that engineering is the career that fits them best.

But it’s worth looking at what could lead to such a lack of confidence. Why are women more affected by this than men?

As the study and the following infographic explains, there are several components to this complicated issue. The main reason might be, that a stereotype threat is still present according to which engineering is still assumed to be a male career. As the study said, “competence in engineering is associated in people’s minds with men and masculinity more than it is with women and femininity”.

While there is no quick-fix solution to this issue, there are actions we can take to support young women. In order to not lose those who are currently studying or who are already working in STEM (also known as the leaky pipeline syndrome), we need to make work environments more accepting and eliminate any residual “macho culture”.

It is also important that role models, successful women in STEM careers are visible and tangible to younger women considering their future career paths. It can be an excellent way for younger women to realize that engineering is just as much for women as it is for men.

We can additionally encourage girls to consider a STEM career in an even earlier phase of their life. According to Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, we need to start by raising girls differently. While boys are taught to be “brave”, women are often told to be “good” and therefore women ‘seek perfection and avoid taking risks’ with this potentially leading to missing out on great opportunities.

Female under-representation in engineering is clearly not because of a lack of capability but, as the study eludes to, because of girls not believing in themselves. In the words of Canadian-Indian poet Rupi Kaur, “What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one she’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her that she did not.” Not only do we need to change this in order to encourage girls to see themselves as engineers in the future, but also in order to ensure the next generation are more confident and believe in their potential. We need women supporting other women. How can you help a girl that you know to reach their potential?

(Disclaimer: This post was written in association with Trade Machines FI GmbH)

Inspiration

Illustrations To Inspire Girls In STEM

14 April, 2017

Remembering The Pioneers [Total Jobs]

Remembering The Pioneers [Total Jobs]

Recent reports have shown that there’s a massive skill requirement for engineering upcoming over the next few years with one in five schoolchildren having to become an engineer to fill that gap in the UK. Considering 15% of UK engineering graduates are female and only 9% of engineering professionals, we can start to fill this gap today by encouraging more girls to pursue STEM, ensuring that they make up 50% of engineering talent in the future.

One of my favourite quotes is by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It’s in this vein that these brilliant new motion illustrations were created by Total Jobs and the co-founder of STEMettes, Jacquelyn Guderley, each depicting the STEM journey and challenges young girls endure. Each illustration, backed by the British Science Association, is supported by inspirational advice, helping to dispel the stereotypes and gender boundaries that exist today.

Opening Doors

Opening Doors [Total Jobs]

Opening Doors [Total Jobs]

You can be what you can see. STEM is inclusive and doors need to be opened to a career in STEM for everyone.

Looking Beyond The Labels

Looking Beyond The Labels [Total Jobs]

Looking Beyond The Labels [Total Jobs]

Be more than the labels placed upon you by society. Be more than what people think you will ‘only’ amount to and push yourself to be what you want to be. Be an awesome coder like Felicity Smoak from CW‘s Arrow, or an astrophysicist like the woman who came into your school and showed you that you can be more than your labels.

Jobs For The Girls

Jobs For The Girls [Total Jobs]

Jobs For The Girls [Total Jobs]

I’m British Asian and my background is Indian, so although my parents were supportive of my interest in space and science, there was some pressure to study a traditional subject for a girl – become a dentist, doctor or a teacher, as it was a “safe” choice and an acceptable job for a girl in Indian culture. Even in society as a whole jobs in technology or science are still seen widely as “for boys”. Girls need to be encouraged to choose STEM careers and when they do, girls often outperform boys in STEM subjects!

Smashing The Sterotypes

Smashing The Sterotypes [Total Jobs]

Smashing The Sterotypes [Total Jobs]

Self-belief can be changed in an instant. We need to stop so many 16-year-old girls walking away and abandoning STEM. One way to do this is for career advisers to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM, an industry where you’re able to attract wages that are 20% higher than other industries! Stereotypes need to be broken down so that girls aren’t denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Remembering The Pioneers [Total Jobs]

Remembering The Pioneers [Total Jobs]

The lack of female role models has a profound effect on girls choosing A-levels, says sociologist Louise Archer at King’s College London. “For girls in particular, physics is seen as being a very masculine subject,” she says. “So the girls who like physics have to work a lot harder to balance it with that notion of normal femininity.”

Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration [Total Jobs]

Finding Inspiration [Total Jobs]

Finding Inspiration [Total Jobs]
Finding Inspiration [Total Jobs]

You need those role models out there, tangible and visible, to be able to inspire the next generation of young girls to become astronauts, or be whatever they want to be.

Options For Girls

Options For Girls [Total Jobs]

Options For Girls [Total Jobs]

Girls deserve the same career opportunities as boys. In term of recruitment we still have big challenges in the world of STEM. You have to ask yourself the question, how many female role models can young people (especially girls) spontaneously quote, other than their direct family members, versus boys? By ensuring these female role models are tangible and visible, this can change.

Opportunity Knocks

Opportunity Knocks [Total Jobs]

Opportunity Knocks [Total Jobs]

I’ve learnt that representation matters and I hope that young women around the world will be inspired by the stories of successful women featured in these illustrations and on Rocket Women that look like them, to take the first step in their STEM story.

Read more about these illustrations supported by the British Science Association here.

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)

Inspirational women

UN Celebrates Girls And Women In Science

11 February, 2016

Only 3% of engineering degree applicants in the UK are girls and 6% of the UK engineering workforce are female. That’s right, it’s in the single digits!

Having carried out physics and engineering degrees in the UK, this statistic pains me. Relatedly, physics is the 3rd most popular A-level for boys but only the 19th for girls. Half of all state schools in the UK don’t have any girls studying physics A-levels at all. With a similar trend seen globally obviously something needs to change.

The United Nations (UN) has declared 11th February the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrating their scientific achievements and taking place for the first time this year. So it’s apt today to look at how we can encourage girls to study science, including physics, ensuring that they have access to STEM jobs in the future.

Although girls are more likely to want to work on something meaningful they are reluctant to translate that desire to science

Although girls are more likely to want to work on something meaningful they are reluctant to translate that desire to science

The Impact of Technology

When speaking to young girls, one thing that has always helped me to portray the wonder of science, is rather than always thinking about the technology itself, think about the impact that technology will make on people. Humanize the technology itself. Take satellite technology for example: initiatives are now being undertaken to provide affordable internet access worldwide through a constellation of microsatellites, a project with the potential to have an unprecedented impact on those around the world without access to basic communication. Rural communities will have high-speed internet access where once there was none, providing education and knowledge to those currently without. The impact of the project is from where, I believe, you can inspire an increasing number of girls to study science.

Rather than thinking about the technology itself, think about the impact that technology will make on people. Humanize the technology itself.

NASA Astronaut Karen Nyberg in the cupola module on the International Space Station (ISS). She has a degree in mechanical engineering and her studies centered on human thermoregulation and experimental metabolic testing and control, and focusing on the control of thermal neutrality in space suits.

NASA Astronaut Karen Nyberg in the cupola module on the International Space Station (ISS). She has a degree in mechanical engineering and her studies centered on human thermoregulation and experimental metabolic testing and control, and focusing on the control of thermal neutrality in space suits. [Image copyright: NASA]

Find Role Models

Allowing girls access to women in STEM is key. As the first American woman in space, Sally Ride, said, “If you can’t see, you can’t be.” With movies and media portraying mainly male scientists, meeting one female scientist can change the life of a young girl as many don’t realize that a career in STEM is an option. Their future options can be influenced by a decision they make at a very young age. Positive female role models are essential to provide women with examples to look up to when they’re making the most critical decisions in their educations or career. Girls can be inspired by independent, fearless, female main characters in books or on TV as well as in real life. Knowing that there is somebody that looks like them and is a scientist can be pivotal in their educational journey.

Take a look at the Inspirational Women section of Rocket Women to read interviews with accomplished women in the space industry.

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 [Copyright: Lottie.com]

Encourage Girls When Young

To encourage more women into engineering you need to inspire them when they’re young. Girls at the age of 11 decide to leave STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), when they’re in an education system where the choice of subjects at school severely limits their options for working in other fields later. Girls need to be allowed to be creative and inquisitive from a young age, rather than being told to play with toys that are seen by many as more appropriate for young girls is key. At 8, I was learning to programme the VCR and encouraged to read voraciously about science. The key is to initially spark an interest in STEM and then to allow that to grow over years, overcoming gender bias, especially in the early years and secondary school. There are an increasing number of companies helping parents to encourage girls when younger and avoid toys that are infused with gender stereotypes, including Goldieblox which allows girls to build and become engineers and Lottie Dolls who recently launched a Stargazing Lottie doll, designed by a six-year-old girl called Abigail, to the International Space Station (ISS).

Girls need to know that it’s fine to be nerdy

Changing The Stereotype

The typical stereotype of a physicist or engineer is usually male and nerdy, which needs to change. Many men and women that work in STEM don’t consider themselves a stereotypical ‘nerd’. Girls also need to know that it’s fine to be nerdy, or simply smart, in fact as an increasing number of jobs incorporate at least a moderate level of technical skills, it’s going to be necessary for girls to learn to code and feel comfortable in a technical environment in order to succeed and thrive in any chosen career. According to US CTO Megan Smith, tech jobs pay 50% more than the average American salary.

96% of the world’s software engineers are men. The average salary for a software engineer in the US was close to $100,000, one of the top paying jobs in the country, with a similar trend worldwide.

On this inaugral International Day of Women and Girls in Science, lets share this advice with young girls around the world to help them reach their potential in the future.

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.

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!

Inspirational women, Science Spotlight

The Untold Story of the New Horizons Mission Team

13 July, 2015

The Women Working on the New Horizons Mission.
Front from left to right: Amy Shira Teitel, Cindy Conrad, Sarah Hamilton, Allisa Earle, Leslie Young, Melissa Jones, Katie Bechtold, Becca Sepan, Kelsi Singer, Amanda Zangari, Coralie Jackman, Helen Hart. Standing, from left to right: Fran Bagenal, Ann Harch, Jillian Redfern, Tiffany Finley, Heather Elliot, Nicole Martin, Yanping Guo, Cathy Olkin, Valerie Mallder, Rayna Tedford, Silvia Protopapa, Martha Kusterer, Kim Ennico, Ann Verbiscer, Bonnie Buratti, Sarah Bucior, Veronica Bray, Emma Birath, Carly Howett, Alice Bowman. Not pictured: Priya Dharmavaram, Sarah Flanigan, Debi Rose, Sheila Zurvalec, Adriana Ocampo, Jo-Anne Kierzkowski. [NASA]

Tomorrow (July 14) at 7:49 am EDT we see a dwarf planet up-close for the first time, but behind this historic achievement is a team of brilliant, hard-working women. The New Horizons mission will fly-by Pluto tomorrow after travelling through the Solar System for over 9 years, allowing the world to learn about this icy dwarf planet during it’s 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour) flyby. However the story that most people will not hear is of the mission team, with the flight team comprised by 25% women, potentially making it the NASA mission with highest number of women staffers, including many scientists and engineers. These women have dedicated their careers and years of their lives to this mission, to gain unique data from the seven instruments aboard New Horizons and gain an unprecedented insight into Pluto and it’s largest moon, Charon, in particular. The team are working to learn about their composition and the potential thin atmosphere that’s shared between them.

Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (MOM), On Console [Twitter]

Moreover Alice Bowman, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (MOM) and group supervisor of the Space Department’s Space Mission Operations Group, made history as the first female Mission Operations Manager (MOM) at  Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). When reading about the novel scientific discoveries gained by the instruments aboard New Horizons this week, make sure to remember the dedication of the women behind the mission.

Astronauts, Inspirational women

Inspirational Google Doodles Remember Sally Ride, The First American Woman In Space

26 May, 2015

One of Today’s Google Doodles Celebrating Sally Ride, the First American Woman In Space

Today’s Google doodles celebrate what would’ve been the 64th birthday of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Throughout her career at NASA Sally  informed major space policy decisions by being a presidential panel member of the 2009 Review of United States Human Spaceflight Plans Committee. This was an independent review of US Human Spaceflight Policy and resulted in fundamental changes made to the US space program. Sally Ride was a strong supporter of women’s education in science and engineering, co-founding Sally Ride Science, a science education company that creates entertaining science programs for 4-8th grade students, specifically focusing on girls and minority students.

Sally devoted her life to science and inspiring others to explore the wonders of STEM. Said in her own words, “Everywhere I go I meet girls and boys who want to be astronauts and explore space, or they love the ocean and want to be oceanographers, or they love animals and want to be zoologists, or they love designing things and want to be engineers. I want to see those same stars in their eyes in 10 years and know they are on their way!”

“Maybe her Doodle will motivate some girl or boy somewhere in the world to become a scientist and adventurer just like Sally.” – Tam O’Shaughnessy—life partner of astronaut Sally Ride, and co-founder & CEO of Sally Ride Science.

Today’s inspirational Google Doodles are below:

Google Doodle To Celebrate Sally Ride’s 64th Birthday

Google Doodle To Celebrate Sally Ride’s 64th Birthday

Google Doodle To Celebrate Sally Ride’s 64th Birthday

Google Doodle To Celebrate Sally Ride’s 64th Birthday

Inspiration

Girls Do Science Too

22 March, 2015

 

“I just think that inventing is for boys because they have Albert Einstein — he invented, he was a guy — and Benjamin Franklin also.”

A powerful new video “Girls Do Science” by Microsoft’s DigiGirlz campaign aspires to show why girls are lacking in STEM fields.

DigiGirlz gives high school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. The video highlights that 7 out of 10 girls are interested at science when young, however only 2 out of 10 go on to work in STEM fields. The video shows the girls’ initial interest in science, with them excitedly describing the projects they’ve completed including designing a website and building a computer. However this initial excitement turns to doubt with the girls describing their reasons for shying away from science.

“There used to be a girl in the robotics class but she quit, so I’m the only girl left.”

“When I was littler I used to think technology was great, and then I started thinking it was more of a boys thing.” Without role models and peer support showing girls that they can study STEM and be great at science, girls hesitate to study subjects that have traditionally been described as “hard”. “In commercials I saw a lot more men doing it – they [girls] might like science but be afraid – thinking don’t girls do that, that’s a boy thing,” says one girl in the video, the result of a lack of prominent female STEM characters in media.

Women earn just 18 percent of computer science degrees in the U.S., a sector that has one of the highest average salaries of US $90,000, along with the smallest gender related pay gap (6.6%). This emphasises the need to inspire girls to continue their interest in STEM through to further education and a career.  The DigiGirlz video ends on a positive note with the girls receiving letters from Microsoft encouraging them to continue their science projects and to think about what they could achieve one day in the future. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, highlighting the issues preventing girls from entering STEM fields and providing support to allow them to build upon their passions and consider a gratifying career in science.