11 February 2019 saw women all over the world coming together to celebrate International Women’s Day, and UEA was no different. Female scientists at UEA celebrated their successes and offered advice to young women who are unsure about pursuing a career in science.
They were part of a day organised by the United Nations General Assembly to encourage young women into STEM careers – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. According to UN Women, only 30 percent of females select these fields in higher education, and less than 30 percent of all researchers are women.
The UN is also putting a large focus on women in the field of space and astrophysics, as well as reproductive health and sanitation across the globe.
Dr Naoko Kishita, clinical psychologist and lecturer at UEA, researches the effects of dementia and mental health in later life. She said that when she was studying for her degree outside of the UK, there were no female lecturers at all. ‘Good role models are important,’ she said. ‘That is how you bring about change and show people that gender should not be an issue when pursuing a career.’
Dr Zoe Waller, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Biology, spoke about how women can both have careers and families, yet many seem to have the perception that it is one or the other.
‘I also want people to know that you can be a mum and work in science. I recently heard Professor Ada Yonath, who was the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, give a talk and she was positively encouraging female scientists to have children. She is doing a great job being a good role model in this way, and as a mum I hope I am able to do the same.’
‘Science is cool and I think that I have the coolest job out of all my friends,’ said Dr Jessica Johnson, a Solid Earth Geophysics Lecturer at UEA. She travels the world conducting research on volcanoes; so far, her job has taken her to New Zealand, Montserrat, and Alaska, and she was the primary research investigator on the Kilauea eruption in Hawaii in 2018. ‘None of my friends get to go on helicopters, climb up volcanoes, or poke at lava with sticks like I do.
‘I think everyone goes through difficult times trying to achieve their goals but if you’re a little bit tenacious then you shouldn’t give up, no matter what your gender.’