This past Saturday, 11 February, marked the second celebration of the International Day of Women in Science, and as our company consists of a fair amount of female employees, we thought it would be good to see whether and how we could promote this day from our point of view. So we started with the question: who on our team qualifies as a woman scientist?
To clarify this question, I should mention that we are a mixed team of editors, web content managers, IT and support people from all sorts of backgrounds; some of us have degrees in science, some in journalism, others have mastered the art of website publishing, and so on.
So, do we only focus on our colleagues with a science degree? After long and careful consideration, I would say no. Let me explain. Although I myself have a degree in science from university I can unequivocally say that all of my colleagues are interested in science, engineering or technology. Otherwise we would not be in this job. This interest is visible in the way we carry out our jobs, the dedication we show when talking to the general public at any science event or the persistence with which we check and re-check every article that passes through our hands. So this post includes all of my colleagues (yes, also the men!).
Though girls often test as good as or better than boys in STEM subjects, the daunting reality is that many girls lack confidence in these subjects, despite their high performance. Being the mother of a young girl myself, I found this really sad. I always try to convey the message that any child can pursue a goal, regardless of gender.
In getting caught up with questions of what makes a woman a scientist and how best to celebrate her hard work that make her one, I come to this conclusion: though gender should be a non-issue in our modern societies, days set aside to celebrate gendered accomplishments like Women in Science Day are nevertheless important and sadly still needed. As women in science, we should speak often at public events or help out at open days, to share our experiences and act as role models for young kids, especially young girls. If at such events we seem to represent our gender more than our STEM field, that’s okay. At least the next generation of young girls will feel represented. Representation leads to empowerment, which boosts confidence, which means they can aim for the stars.
After my first open day, one of the girls I had spoken to came back to talk to me at the end of the day. She told me she now definitely wanted to become an astronaut. I will certainly be looking for her in a few years’ time (she must have been about 8). In the meantime, I hope to be able to inspire a lot more girls to pursue a career in STEM.
With all this said, we now return to intended programming: We salute our amazing and inspiring EJR-Quartz women in science!