Today, February the 11th, is the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
Gender equality is one of the biggest challenges we face and nowhere is that more visible than in the traditionally male-dominated fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Did you know that only 35% of girls worldwide choose to study STEM in higher education?
That number’s tiny!
In Australia, research has shown that the number of women studying for a degree in a STEM discipline is roughly equal however retention of women over the course of their careers is seriously low. If you’d like to check out the numbers, Science and Gender Equity in STEMM published a study here.
Here at Science Space, we are committed to encouraging women and girls in pursuing careers in a STEM field and we believe that it all begins in Primary School. We love showing girls that science can be fun and interesting and we’ve got a bunch of inspiring role-models that they can look up to.
We interviewed some of our front-line women who work at Science Space, engaging with visitors on the floor, presenting shows and running workshops. Here’s what they had to say.
“I’ve always been a lover of learning and information. When I was old enough to actually understand the concepts in physics, I was blown away. I just needed to know more. My favourite things to do at Science Space are Planetarium shows. I could just talk about the stars forever. It’s amazing for you to show them something they didn’t know before and they can be really excited about it and learn, and they can visualise it as well. It’s just amazing.”
Isabelle is in her 3rd year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Physics. Photo: @johmatrix
“I love maths because it’s hard. I struggle with some of my subjects this semester but I like that challenge. I love going to uni and having that problem and spending days and days trying to figure it out and thinking about it. Every day I work at Science Space I’m learning something new. Like in the Planetarium I learned that Betelgeuse is on of the biggest stars that we know of. It’s so big that if it were our sun, it would completely engulf Earth. I think it’s 1400 times the size of our Sun.”
Jess is in her 3rd year of a Bachelor of mathematics and secondary education. Photo: @johmatrix
“I got into STEM purely because I did well – in year 8 I came first in my class for Science. I’ve never really had any big passions in my life so I was like “hey I’m not terrible at this, let’s stick with this”. And then I sort of followed it through High School and I realised that I was enjoying it more and more. Although I’m not technically doing STEM now, I have enjoyed doing the Science Communication stuff, like the social media so that’s what I’m hoping to do; public relations and marketing in the science industry and to help get the word out about it a bit more.”
Riley is her 4th year of a Bachelor of Commerce with a double major in Public Relations and Economics. Before that she was studying Medical Biotechnology. Photo: @johmatrix
“I like science because it’s fascinating. The more you learn, the more you realise you’ve got way more to learn. And the more you learn the more questions you’re going to ask and the more questions you ask, the more you’re going to learn and it’s just an endless cycle of learning and I love learning so that’s why I love science.
I love doing the live shows at Science Space mainly because I like watching kids understand something. So when I do a show and I explain it to them you can often see the moment where they go “Ohhhhhhhh! That’s how that works!” And yeah; that’s just really cool.”
Erin is just starting a Bachelor of Primary Education after majoring in Medical Biotechnology. Photo by Johanna Howes
“In high school I didn’t get to experience a lot of physics so I was like why not make someone else’s day by inspiring them and getting them interested in opportunities in physics?
I love to explode things with liquid nitrogen here at Science Space because I just love watching the audiences’ faces and it always scares me a little bit too so it’s a little bit fun. It keeps you young.”
Jacinta is in her 3rd year of a Bachelor of Science Education (Physics). Photo by Johanna Howes
“I’ve always been interested in infectious disease and biology and basically evolution and how the world works. Antibiotic resistance involves both of those; bacteria are evolving to what we’ve been using as antibiotics and we’re trying to work our way around that.
Explaining my degree is pretty exciting because usually a lot of people don’t know what it is. Explaining how, with biology, you can do stem-cell research, you can do genetic modification and it goes across all industries so it’s not just biology but you can go into farming or medicine and even into conservation. I kind of like the fact that Science goes across all industries.”
Maddy is in her 4th year of Bachelor of Medical Biotechnology (Honours). She’s also a Dean’s Scholar.
“In high school I loved my Physics class but I didn’t really know what sorts of jobs you could do as a physicist and I saw engineering as like the applied physics. I’m also really bad at making decisions so I just picked both!
I love everything here at Science Space. I love that if I’m in a really personable mood I can do shows and make them really interesting and tell people interesting bits of Science trivia. Like there are 96 bags of poop on the moon. They just left them there. They had to have room on the rocket to bring back rocks so they had to leave something behind!”
Molly is in her 4th of a Bachelor of Materials Engineering and Physics. She is also this year’s President of the University of Wollongong’s Women in STEM Society.
“When I was in year 3, I picked up a Neil Armstrong book. Before that I took everything that happened in nature at face value, like the sun was there, the moon was there; I never really thought about what was outside our planet. So when I picked up that book and it said that he was the first guy to walk on the moon I was like “but how did he go there?”. So I started reading about space.
When I tell people I study geology they’re like “oh what is that, do you just look at rocks all day? Is that all you do?”. And then I’m like look at your phone. Your phone is made out of aluminium, gold, copper and that’s what we do. We go and explore, find where those minerals are. We get it, and companies make your phone – you’re holding geology in your hand.”
Brenda has just completed a Bachelor of Science (Geology)!
“I’d always loved animals so it was always going to be biology or zoo keeping or veterinary kind of things. I’ve always just loved animals and wanted to care for them. And so Ecology was just a natural pathway.
One of my favourite things about frogs is that they actually have to swallow using their eyeballs. So they don’t gulp like we do they actually have to kind of push their eyeballs back and it pushes the food back into their stomach! It’s amazing. “
Sara is in her 5th year of a Bachelor of Science (Ecology) and is about to start her Honours looking at Corroboree Frogs.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World: https://www.amazon.com/Women-Science-Fearless-Pioneers-Changed/dp/1607749769
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