‘Universities need to promote more women to Science’

Sadly, women still remain very much unrepresented in many workplaces. It is well known that the corporate world, politics and banking are male dominated, but what is perhaps particularly shocking is the lack of women in Science.

Many important scientific discoveries were achieved by women in the 20th century. Marie-Curie was a Polish-born French physicist and chemist best known for her contributions to radioactivity. German-born American physicist Maria Mayer received Nobel Prize for suggesting the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus. Barbara Mcclintock was a American scientist and cytogeneticist who received Nobel Prize in 1983 for the discovery of genetic transposition. Finally, closer to home, Jane Goodall a British primatologist and ethologist, widely considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

These ground-breaking scientists need to be remembered for pushing the boundaries around women in the workplace. Recently, Rosalind Franklin was recognized for contributions towards British science, with the naming of the new mars rover in her honor. However, much more needs to be done to make STEM subjects accessible for all.

The Athena Swan charter, set up in 2005 aims to advance the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM). Since its set-up, there has been a 28 percent increase in the number of women undertaking undergraduate degrees in STEMM subjects.

Furthermore, a new initiative by the government awards nine women the opportunity to undertake research into providing solutions to modern challenges such as plastic pollution.

However, women are still underrepresented within universities as few take on leadership roles. Here at UEA, just ten percent of staff are female within the school of chemistry, highlighted in the UEA Athena Swan Bronze award.

A recent equality report at UEA has shown an increase in the number of female professors: 7.1 percent in 2009 to 19.1 percent since 2019. This is good news, but clearly more work needs to be done to tackle the barriers faced by women wanting to progress in academic Science.

Several Universities are working to solve equality by creating diverse governing bodies so as to make women inclusive members of university society. Let’s hope gender equality within Science continues to improve.

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Sophie Burrows

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August 2022
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