Encouraging Women in Science and STEM Careers

Plant on pink

Why is this important? It’s unfortunate that there are barriers to women and girls in science, and we include trans women here as well. At Data Relish, we are a team of women and some of us have an LGBT background, so we think a lot about diversity and inclusion. We don’t see it as an opportunistic way of trying to sell services or gain some advantage; it’s just who we are. It’s something we talk about all year around, not just on International Day of Women and Girls in Science day (11th February).

This blog post forms a call to action so you can help encourage others to follow a STEM career. If you have any more thoughts, please add them to the comments and we look forward to reading them.

Can women following a scientific process be viewed as more indecisive?

The COVID pandemic has shown that scientists will try out a number of different theories and evidence, and questions are rarely settled with the first answer. From a layperson’s point of view, this may look as if the scientists are prevaricating. This perception is wrong. Collecting evidence is a key part of the scientific process. 

Bias can come into play here. So you need to watch out for scenarios where women are perceived differently from men. A female may be seen as more ‘indecisive’ than a male, for example, and a natural part of the scientific process may be seen as a woman being indecisive rather than following scientific enquiry. It’s important to question our assumptions about the data, rather than the person who is talking about the data.

Collaboration leads to greater creativity, not competition

We need more empathy in creativity. If something doesn’t work, we usually learn ten things we didn’t know before and that moves us forward. That’s one of the beauties of the agile process, for example. 

Collaboration rather than competition can lead to greater creativity because it allows us to try something new, and not be afraid to ask questions. It empowers us to try again in a different direction rather than stop.

The Untold History of Women in Science

When she was 13 years old, Hazel Hill helped do to some of the maths around the guns on the Spitfire planes. Professor Sarah Gilbert spearheaded the design of the Oxford coronavirus. There are examples and role models out there.

We don’t hear enough about the stories of successful women and girls in science, so we have to educate ourselves. Here’s some great material courtesy of former US President Barack Obama, for example. 

Encourage Women and Girls every day, not just on days of recognition

We’ve been talking about this for years, but it’s clear that we need to keep talking about it today and every day. It’s not just an opportunity for social media juice to get click-throughs. Don’t wheel out the one token woman on your team and use her as a photo opportunity, for example. People can tell if it is not genuine. If you see something; say something. Don’t be a silent spectator when you see something that you could do something about; that does not make you a leader, but it might get you click-throughs and for some, that might be the same thing. 

Be the change and inspire every day.

Opportunities to Succeed

As part of our data science charity work, we encourage female volunteers to join in with DataKind hackathons, for example, so that they can meet other role models and encourage others. Find opportunities for women and girls in your network, and advertise them in your workplace – or perhaps you could sponsor?

Thank you for reading and we look forward to seeing more success in the future. Tell us your stories, we would love to hear them!

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