Dr Melanie Windridge – Plasma Scientist

On 4th May, I spent the day with L’Oréal Paris and Education & Employers at the The Royal Society meeting some inspiring women in science. It was the launch of a national campaign that will see many more female scientists visiting children in primary schools across the country.

Dr Melanie Windridge In the morning I took part in a ‘What’s My Line Activity?’ where a panel of six volunteers (including me!) were asked questions by the children as they tried to guess each volunteer’s job role.

These activities help young children see first-hand how science can lead to a vast range of exciting opportunities, by giving them the chance to hear from women working in roles which use science. By showcasing our exciting and varied working lives, we can help children understand that science is more than just a lab coat.

I get involved with things like this because I believe that education is so important, but that children need to want to learn to achieve their potential.  Showing them the opportunities out there, how things that they study relate to their everyday lives, and allowing them to meet people who have fulfilling and fascinating jobs can only increase their curiosity and desire to learn.

It’s not just about science either.  I think that being informed about the world and its possibilities in the workplace is essential for students making decisions about their future.  That’s why it is important for adults to go into schools to talk about their jobs, whatever they might be.  There are so many different roles out there, and different ways of living one’s life, that when the students leave school they will still be striking out into the unknown, but at least we can give them glimpses that will impart a sense of direction.

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When I was at school I never knew what I wanted to “be” when I grew up.  Fortunately I was able to just follow my interests and see where they took me.  I always loved physics at school, so first I went to Bristol University to study physics and did summer work experience placements in academia.  After a couple of gap years travelling I embarked upon a PhD in fusion energy because I was inspired by solving the energy problem and combatting climate change.  My interest in the bigger picture got me into communicating our work, and now I work as Communications Consultant for fusion start-up Tokamak Energy, and pursue side-line interests of writing books and giving talks – my special interest is combining science with outdoor adventure.

At school, I would never have guessed what I would be doing now, but I was lucky enough to be given insight into things that caught my interest and imagination.  Now we can all help give insight to others coming up behind us.

Sign up at www.inspiringthefuture.org to volunteer an hour a year to help inspire the next generation, and encourage colleagues, friends, relatives, neighbours etc to do the same.

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More female role models needed as over half of older teens ready to rule out a career in science

In the wake of new research revealing that over half of older teens are ready to rule out a career in science, we are delighted to announce the latest Inspiring Women campaign, in partnership with L’Oréal: Inspiring Women in Science. This exciting new campaign will encourage female role models to visit local schools and chat to primary aged school children to help inspire the next generation of scientists.

To see all photos from the day, take a look at the Inspiring Women in Science Flickr album.

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New research commissioned by L’Oréal has found that an average 55% of 16-18 year-old full time students are not studying science. Of those, more than a third (40%) said it was because they don’t think science would lead to a career they want to do, and just under a third (29%) feel they are no good at science*.

The figures were announced on the 10th anniversary of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Awards, as we unveiled a new partnership with the charity Education and Employers which runs the Inspiring the Future programme.

The UK is still short on female scientists, and L’Oréal believes the key to fixing this problem is bringing inspirational role models into the classroom, particularly at a young age; more than half of students studying science at university say they fell in love with the subject while at primary school.**

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When it comes to choosing a career at a later stage, girls are more likely than boys to listen to advice from others, particularly parents (20% vs 16%) and people working in the career they want to do (13% vs 10%).

A separate survey, conducted among parents, indicated that children form opinions of what they’re good at, at a young age; almost three quarters (71%) of parents with primary school-aged children agree their child knows what they are good at, yet one in five (20%) of those parents say they don’t discuss their child’s aspirations for the future.***

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Together with L’Oréal we believe it is vital to help young children see first-hand how science can lead to a vast range of exciting opportunities, by giving them the chance to hear from women working in roles which use science. By showcasing their exciting and varied working lives, we can help children understand that science is more than just a lab coat.

As part of the launch today at the Royal Society, 70 primary school children came together with 10 women from the science sector to develop a greater understanding of science careers and make the important link to their in-school learning. The morning event kicked off with a ‘What’s My Line Activity?’ where a panel of six volunteers were asked questions by the children as they tried to guess each volunteers job role. Amongst the many insightful and creative questions put forward were “Do you work with chemicals?”, “Do you work somewhere that is really dark?”, “Do you use goggles?” and “Do you enjoy your jobs?”.

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The volunteers then revealed their profession, including a forensic archaeologist, an orthopaedic surgeon and a plasma scientist. This was met with delight and surprise from the children, illustrating the importance of exposing pupils to a range of careers they were not aware of to encourage them to dream big and aim high.

This was followed by ‘speed networking’ where the children were able to talk to the volunteers in small groups, allowing them to discuss the volunteer’s role in more depth and even see examples of some of the activities their jobs entail, including using a bone drill!

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Anne Lyons, President of the National Association of Head Teachers said:

“Role models from the world of work can have a big impact on children – they can help them see why the subjects they are studying matter. It also helps to tackle the stereotypes children have from a young age which lead them to think that certain subjects and careers are not for them. We know that children from the age of 5 often stereotype the jobs people do according to their gender – and this is particularly the case in science. That is why we are keen to get more volunteers who work in science to volunteer an hour of their time to visit a local school and chat to young people about their job and career route.”

Nick Chambers, CEO of the charity Education and Employers, which runs Inspiring the Future said:

“Spending time talking to people in a range of professions helps young people to be aware of the wide range of career paths open to them. Yet just 35% of 16-18 year olds surveyed by L’Oréal said that they know someone who works in a science field, and only 14% of parents surveyed work in a science related field. This means most children aren’t having the kinds of conversations that help them form new ideas about their own future.

“At the same time, children from a young age develop often stereotyped views of what kinds of jobs they might want to do – and even that jobs are gendered. But bringing children face-to-face with ‘real scientists’ means they really think about the fact they could one day be for example a meteorologist, a surgeon, or scene of crime officer. And the teaching community believes the same – we’ve found that almost three quarters of primary teachers believe girls are more likely to experience positive impacts from employers’ engagement activities on their academic achievement.”

Vismay Sharma Managing Director of L’Oréal UK & Ireland, said:

“We know that unfortunately, for many, science can be seen as niche and having no connection with the real world, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the things around us, things that we use every day (and can’t live without) owe their very existence to this thing called ‘science’. It is important for us all to work together and find ways to spark the interest of the next generation of scientists. We’re therefore delighted to announce this new and important partnership.

“Today also marks the 10th annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards in the UK and Ireland. Together with our fellowship winners and our varied network of professional female scientists that we work with through our partnerships with UNESCO, The Royal Society and The Royal Institution, we hope to foster aspiration and challenge career-based gender stereotypes amongst primary school children.”

The partnership with Inspiring the Future is the latest in L’Oréal UK & Ireland’s range of programmes to promote and support science and help tackle the underrepresentation of women in science-based professions.

Since 2007 the For Women In Science programme has awarded over £500,000 to 42 early career researchers in the UK, with flexibility to use the funds to pay for equipment and apparatus, attendance of international scientific events and child care.

Young people in the UK also have the opportunity to visit the L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre (LYSC) at the Royal Institution, which has welcomed over 52,000 7-18 year olds to its modern laboratory since 2009 with hands on activities helping them to think more deeply about science.

A huge thank you to all the amazing women in science who volunteered at this morning’s event, and to the pupils for their inquisitive questions and overall engagement.

From today, we are calling on women working in science up and down the country, to sign up via www.inspiringthefuture.org and volunteer an hour of time talking with primary school children about their job. Sign up to the Women in Science campaign to help inspire the next generation of women in science.

*Based on findings from April 2017 YouGov survey, conducted in April 2017 on behalf of L’Oréal.

**Based on figures from NUS Insight research, conducted in May 2016 on behalf of L’Oréal.

***Based on the combined average score for “strongly agree” and “tend to agree” responses from parents of children aged 5-11 years old.

Living Abroad while Studying

Connie Fuentes Garrido

Founder and Director of Human Rights Awareness

I still remember that day. I was 12 years old, standing in an airport in Mexico City, with two suitcases, one ticket to Canada in my hands, and ready to leave my family for the next two months. I remember being a bit scared but at the same time at-ease due to the great enthusiasm I had. That was the first time in my life I travelled to another country without any family member or any friend. I was sent to an ‘English Camp’ in Ontario, created for children from all over the world to learn English as a second language. That experience was fun, exciting and above all, it was eye-opening. I learned that my reality as a kid was not necessarily the reality of kids from other countries, that being open to other cultures and embracing their differences is a major factor of social interaction, that a smile and kindness are a bridge for starting friendships regardless of not having a complete understanding of each others’ languages, and that I wanted to keep on travelling when I became an adult woman. After that trip I decided that somehow when I grew up I wanted to travel and to meet other people across the globe. And so I did!

When I was 15 and I was in high school I got the great opportunity to do my studies in three countries. I was studying in Mexico as a primary country and then as an exchange student in Spain and in Canada. At this point I was not scared any more of travelling with no friends nor family but I felt I had a great challenge being abroad because I was going to study not a language but ‘real stuff” like Maths, Physics, Biology, and all those difficult subjects you study when you are in high school. I had an amazing experience studying in those two countries. At this point I realised that studying abroad was an interesting, fun and very productive way of travelling to other countries and getting to know different cultures.

After high school I started Law School. During the 5 years of Bachelors, I did not study abroad as an exchange student even though I would have really liked to. Unless you are studying International Law as your Bachelors, Law is a very local subject that needs to be studied in depth in the country you are going to apply your knowledge. However, I did find an advantage of studying all those years in Mexico and not moving around: I worked as a Law intern almost all my University and that gave me the chance to save some money for my next study abroad!

Once I finished Law School, I took all the money I saved while working as a Law intern, I got some money by selling my car and with some help of my parents I went to Spain to study a Masters in Political Analysis at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I had one of the best experiences in my life! I was studying abroad not as a 12-year-old with tutors in Canada, not as a high school teenager studying abroad, but as a young woman discovering the freedom and responsibilities that go along with living in a foreign country by yourself. It was simply amazing!

After Spain, I came back to Mexico. While working there in human rights I decided I wanted to study another Masters in Belgium but I did not have any money after spending all I had in my studies in Spain. I had not saved enough in my work in Mexico for paying another year of studies and living costs with no income. So, I decided to risk it and to apply for a scholarship. For getting it you needed to apply with lots of documents in a sort of a competition process. I still remember when I was informed that I got the scholarship. I could not believe it! I was very happy. I travelled to Belgium for studying an Advanced Master in Governance and Development at the Institute of Development Policy and Management of Antwerp University. I was studying with 70 people from around 50 nationalities. It was such an extraordinary experience to be surrounded by people from so many countries around the globe. I was so inspired by this experience and by knowing that no matter where you are from, what language you speak, what your ethnicity is, to what culture you belong, what your abilities are, we all are human beings with equal value and dignity.

Motivated by my studies in Governance and Development, where I chose the track of poverty reduction, I decided to go to India for a while. I had the great opportunity to be with women and children in the slums of New Delhi and to understand a bit about their complex situation. I learned so much about the importance of access to opportunities and development not only for some but for all. I fully understood that we, as a society, have the responsibility to defend the rights of those in vulnerability and not to leave anyone behind. While in India I founded an online platform for raising awareness of human rights, mainly of those of children, youth and women called ‘Human Rights Awareness’. I am very optimistic about this platform and I do believe that it can help to do my bit in this society.

Following India, I came to London and this is where I am right now, writing for the blog of this amazing project called Inspiring Women. I want to tell all young girls from all over the world not to give up in what you want in life. It does not matter how big the challenge looks, you are capable of facing it. I would encourage you all to travel as much as you can, get to know other cultures, be kind to one another, work for your society and do your bit!

Maybell Saliu International Women’s Day blog post

Our final blog post to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 is from Maybell Saliu. Maybell is a Project Manager Trainee with Network Rail and has been volunteering with us since April 2016. A special thanks to Maybell and all the inspiring women who lit up our blog this week to help us celebrate International Women’s Day! #BeBoldForChange

“Sadly, I was not an individual who was able to utterMaybell the words – ‘I aspire to be just like….’. I was not exposed to, nor did I ever have anyone to aspire to. Until I received my GCSE results – I met face to face with failure. The reality that I had played around and squandered any opportunities to be the best I could be in that season, hit me hard. I would say from that point forward I was inspired to always give my best, always!
I have a passion to ensure young people in education are exposed to as much information and opportunities as possible, to make the best choice for their future and to own it! Also, I do not want young people to forcibly go through the motions of education and ultimately life. Life is what you make of it, and age should never dictate the level of success that can be achieved.
I attended schools that did not have the opportunities to expose me to what I could be. I know times have changed but I believe more opportunities need to be brought to the attention of young people. A wealth of information needs to be available and easily accessible to them so that they can grasp these opportunities and position themselves for greatness.
Volunteering allows you to connect to young students, impart knowledge and encourage others. It is a great platform to genuinely contribute to generations behind you, so they may become greater and better than our generation. Last but not least, it is fun and fulfilling to see a young student blossom and take steps into the next chapter of their life.

The advice I would give to a young person wanting to pursue a career in my field is:

• Research, research and research.
• Stop, sit down, and think, strategies & then Go.
• Buy Project Management books
• Read blogs/articles of successful projects in different industries.
• Check Project Managers Career history via LinkedIn.
• Give a project management related company a call or email asking for career advice.
• Get a mentor
Inspiring the Future are passionate about causes that are close to my heart. Their vast network of schools, allows me to actively engage with young people. The best part of it is when a student request to speak to me further, it reassures me I said something that they were able to relate to. “

Brooke Wachtel International Women’s Day blog post

Today’s Inspiring Women blog post is from Brooke Wachtel, who has been a volunteer with us since April 2015. Brooke is a director in Corporate Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The company is our key strategic partner and lead corporate sponsor, and has over 900 amazing employees signed up as volunteers.

“I am incredibly inspired every time I volunteer for an Brooke WachtelInspiring the Future event. I love hearing the questions the young people ask about different jobs and being able to share information about careers that they never thought of before. My favourite moment is when a young person decides they can aim for more than they thought they could…that’s a very fulfilling volunteer experience!

When we are young we can sometimes be limited in our thinking by what we see around us. There are so many unique and diverse careers to aim for but many times we build dreams based on what we already know. It is so important to be able to meet people from many walks of life and understand their experiences so we broaden our thinking and can truly decide what we want to do with our lives.

This is why Inspiring the future is so important to me. I want to be able to share my experiences with young people who may have never thought about entering my field and show them that anything is possible if they work hard for it. I’ve had many different career experiences which I’ve been given mainly because of my work ethic. I truly believe that if you are willing to work hard any achievement is possible and I want every young person to feel empowered to reach for their dreams.”

Amy and Francesca’s International Women’s Day blog post

 

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In honour of International Women’s Day 2017 we wanted to reemphasise the profound impact volunteer interactions have on the lives of young people.

Francesca and Amy, two Year 13 students from the Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School, attended their first Inspiring Women event in May 2016. During the Inspiring Women in Business and Enterprise event at the London Stock Exchange they met an array of leading women from the Business sector. They were involved in the campaign again this year, however now they were speaking on behalf of the Inspiring Women campaign!  Francesca and Amy took to the stage at the Women in Facilities management annual conference to speak about their experiences meeting volunteers.

Here’s what Amy and Francesca have to say about their experience:

“The Inspiring Women in Business event in May has been a continuous source of enlightenment and has offered us advice as how to be successful in our careers. As students, it is extremely beneficial, speaking to women at such events, because it allows us to aspire to achieve great things and how our gender should not limit our success. We were able to meet women in demanding professions who are excelling in their chosen career, but who have also been able to create a successful work and family balance.

The event offered us direction to our final goal and the types of skills and traits that would be required for our chosen career, which was extremely advantageous. These events have encouraged us to succeed and being in contact with employers has given us the knowledge to understand what we need to do to excel in our chosen career.

Being able to share what we have learnt with these women, was important because it means that further women will be able to support the charity, and thus many young women similar to us will be able to benefit significantly.”

Thank you again to Amy and Francesca for their wonderful contribution and to all our volunteers for making this possible!

 

Dr Cristina Aguilera Xiol International Women’s Day blog post

Today’s Inspiring Women blog post to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 is from Dr Cristina Aguilera Xiol. Dr Cristina is the Project Manager at Genomics England and has been volunteering with us since October 2014.

‘I studied Biochemistry at the University; in my class there were far more young women
than men – no need to count, it was evident. During my PhD in Biomedicine, around half of the students were female. During my PostDoc, the number of women started to decrease but, more importantly, most of the Group leaders were men. This is not just my experience; research shows that there is substantial attrition of both men and women Dr Cristina Aguileraalong the science and engineering educational pathway to first academic position which is expected. Nevertheless, there are major differences between the patterns of attrition between men and women: fewer high school girls intend to major in science and engineering fields, even more alter their intentions to major in science and engineering between high school and college, fewer women science and engineering graduates continue on to graduate school, and fewer women science and engineering PhDs are recruited into the applicant pools for tenure-track faculty positions (1).

Why is this happening? How can we change this trend? I do not have answers to these complicated questions but I feel concerned so I decided to volunteer to Inspire Women to ensure girls can see what women are capable of. I feel that meeting role models inspire young girls to pursue their passions and dream BIG, knowing that other women have already gone through the path they dream of.

I studied at the University and did my PhD in Spain, then came to the UK following my dream of having a career in science, and today I can gladly say I do. I am very grateful to this country that welcomed me and my family. The best way I found I could contribute back is by volunteering and help make the Uk, Europe, the world really, a better place ensuring young women and young men can achieve anything they are able to dream of.  UK as well as Spain and many other countries in Europe have two essential society pillars: Education and Healthcare. I work in Healthcare but I am as well passionate about Education. The primary role of Education is to provide people with knowledge and confidence to make a difference in the transformation of society – we need to invest in Education to ensure our children create a better world for everyone. Volunteering for Inspire the Future is my little contribution to this brighter future.’

 

References

  • Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. National Academy of Sciences (US), National Academy of Engineering (US), and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.

Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2007.