At Black Swan Analysis we proudly celebrate women and girls starting and continuing their career in science. On the occasion of International Women in Science Day 2020 that was celebrated on 11 Feb, we asked our very own women about their journey into science and their career aspirations. Here is what they had to say;
- Why is it important to involve more women and girls in science?
Sophie - In a male dominated field there is a danger of narrowing that vision and view of study, a female perspective and a new mind to science can help increase productivity and thought provoking discussion and debate. Girls are equally as capable as men and there have been many great females scientists in history that have brought about great change and discovery, to limit this just to males would be foolish.
Hana - I think that women have always had an interest in highly academic fields so for them to explore their varying perspectives is valuable within scientific fields.
Ridwaan - I strongly believe that gender diversity is important within science industry! Having women and girls will bring unique perspective to research!
Sasha - It is important to try and encourage more women to be involved in science as variety normally improves solutions. Both men and women have different experiences, thus can offer different perspectives in creating a solution. Hopefully, in the future we will be able to view the changes that have been accomplished from a more inclusive and equal industry.
Frances - Women make valuable and crucial contributions to science and offer fresh perspectives and ideas, but our voices are underrepresented, narrowing the views on scientific research and limiting our advances in these fields.
- What can be done to encourage girls to take up science or STEM as a career?
Sophie - I think this starts at a young age, encouraging girls to take part in ‘stereotypical manlier’ activities. I remember when I was younger my older sister had a microscope kit and it fascinated me, introduction to these types of machinery so that the confidence is there when it comes to combating complex tools and concurrently installing the willingness to learn and explore. Encouragement from social groups, schooling and activities such as Girl Guiding UK and the implementation of more hands-on science in a fun manner can introduce girls into the science field.
Hana - I think exposure to science at a young age and raising awareness with engaging events held by women, is a great way to break the gender bias set by previous generations and make them feel more comfortable with the idea of a science or STEM career.
Ridwaan - We need to educate them about the different types of careers they can get within the science industry or STEM! This starts in the classroom whilst they are young! We need to instil them that they are confident enough to be able to go into those industry and believe they can do as well as men! We also need to have more positive role models of females within the science industry that are doing great things, so they have someone to look up to!
Sasha - Challenging the negative stereotypes associated with women in science from childhood could be an important way of encouraging girls to consider STEM careers. Allowing young girls to pursue what they are interested in could see a shift of women turning to science.
Frances - There needs to be more news and media coverage of scientific achievements, particularly celebrating successful women in science, and this also needs to be taught in schools. Providing women with more role models is essential, to inspire women and break down the misconceptions that they may not be as capable, and to decrease the fear of discrimination and having to work harder to succeed that comes from being a minority. More role models would help to increase awareness to women of the vast variety of scientific study and possibilities for different career paths.
- What inspired you to make a career choice in Science?
Sophie - Throughout school I always enjoyed my Biology classes and found that I would do better in these as I enjoyed attending the lessons and learning the content. Although not all aspects of science are my forte, as I progressed through my education and was able to specialise in a specific area of interest. As you learn about all aspects of science and how many different roles and ways of being in science there are, I realised that I could make a career out of it. I learnt as I went along that is it not just one simple category of ‘science’ but so many uniquely interesting subcategories that are ever changing and growing that could cater to a multitude of people.
Hana - Since I was young, I have been lucky to be surrounded by women in my family who are in scientific fields which grew my curiosity, I then developed a better appreciation of it throughout school.
Ridwaan - One of the reasons was to make a difference to people lives whether that’s indirectly or directly!
Sasha - From a young age, I have always been fascinated by science, particularly the human body and how medicines work. This motivated me to apply for a Biomedical Sciences degree at the University of Surrey and I absolutely love it! The curiosity I possessed since childhood is certainly being quenched by my course where I learn all about the science that underpins things that interest me such as the aetiology and treatment of different diseases. One thing I love about science, especially this internship, is that I am constantly learning and developing my abilities.
It started with an interest in nature as a child and a desire to study veterinary science. As I studied sciences separately in school, I developed an interest in physics too which lead me to study an interdisciplinary degree in natural sciences. From which I began working in data science.
- Are the times changing for women and girls that want to get into science?
Sophie - I think more females are getting involved in certain sciences, in my university on my current degree of BSc(Hons) in Biomedical Sciences, there is a almost even split between males and females however in some courses such as Engineering there is still the divide. The idea of science being a male field is outdated and with new generations of children leaving school having been taught on equal groundings I think the unbalance will settle and that more females will be entering the field of science.
Hana - I do feel that more women are becoming leading figures within scientific fields for example researchers and surgeons, which I believe is due to their personal experiences and the greater encouragement seen nowadays.
Ridwaan - I do believe that times are changing for women and girls that want to get into science, especially with the fact that there are more women now as CEOs within the life science industry than before! However, I don’t believe it’s changing fast enough due to the fact that its still predominately males at the top!
Sasha - I believe so. At a younger age, women are being encouraged to pursue scientific qualifications and get more involved in STEM careers. With equal educational opportunities, I think women are free to make their mind up in regard to the career they want to pursue. During my time at university, I have certainly seen confident women- in both my fellow students and my professors- which is extremely encouraging.
Frances - Yes, more women are entering these career paths than before, paving a way for more women to do the same as workplaces become more representative of the world, creating better workplace environments for women.
- Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?
Sophie - I hope to have graduated from university and be enrolled in a graduate scheme whereby I can continue to learn and to grow in science, as to which specific area within biomedical science and related fields I am not yet sure, but I have the ability to move and to choose.
Hana - I would like to be within the pharmaceutical industry supporting novel scientific work that ultimately will better public health, potentially on a global level (😊).
Ridwaan - I hope to still be in the healthcare and life science industry and progress with my career!
Sasha - I hope to be in a job where I can make an impact on the industry in any way possible! I have not yet decided what specific scientific field I want to enter but the flexibility available in most career paths excites me. I look forward to continuing to improve upon certain abilities such as creativity and lateral thinking.
- What advice would you give girls keen to take up science as a career choice?
Sophie - I would encourage girls to not be scared away by the idea of ‘science’ as there are so many different aspects to science that it cannot be tackled as a whole entity. Start with an area that interests you most and specialise further.
Ridwaan - Be confident and believe that you can accomplish what you want to do!! Another advice is to talk to your school mentors, especially if you want to go into the science industry! They can give you more advice about your choices and guide you with the best subjects to take up in school if you want to go in STEM industry!
Sasha - I would say it is important not to be discouraged by any failures you encounter; it is almost inevitable. The scientific field is extremely dynamic and is constantly changing- having the ability to learn from your failures and make them successful is what makes a good scientist. It allows you to flourish and others to learn from your mistakes, ultimately creating an industry full of people who are well equipped to improve the quality of life.
Nic - In today’s business environment there are fewer traditional barriers for women wanting into get into any field. There definitely needs to be more education around the variety of different roles available in science, and women should not be put off by perceptions of science being a male dominated field. If you want to do something, do it! (and that goes for men & women!). Believe in your capabilities and do what you feel a passion for.
We at BSA are proud to support girls get a real feel for a career in science by offering paid internships every summer. This not only enables them to get a real taste of working in the field of PharmaTech but also helps them build confidence and set realistic future goals.
Find more about us here.
Participants in this questionnaire were; Hana Haddad (Healthcare analyst, Oncology), Sasha Louise-Ahlawat (Healthcare analyst, Epidemiology), Sophie Teuber (Healthcare analyst, Epidemiology), Ridwaan Ibrahim (Healthcare Analyst, Epidemiology), Frances Wise (Healthcare Analyst, Oncology) and Nic Talbot-Watt CEO at Black Swan Analysis Ltd.