Celebrating Women in Science

During this month, York St John University has been celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The science sector in higher education has historically been heavily male dominated, and the day is part of a campaign seeking to achieve full and equal access to the participation of women and girls in science and further promote gender equality and empowerment of women.

For this blog post it has been my pleasure, to interview and engage with women in science around York St John University.

Women working in a science lab.

I began by interviewing Jane Newsworthy. As a third-year university student, Jane ran a virtual campaign in commemoration of Women in STEM at the beginning of February. Jane began by reaching out to the Athena Swan Committee whereby she realised how extensive the STEM community was. Jane decided to run this campaign in part to celebrate the work of female academics within her school, and I also interviewed Katy Bloom, Manjinder Jagdev and Linda Mason, all researchers and lecturers in the same school.

In this blog I’ve compiled responses from each of these women, who not only want to celebrate women and girls in science, but should also themselves, be celebrated.

What is your motivation?

Linda Mason – ‘My father was an agricultural research scientist and often included me in his field work. My mother trained in medicine; I always felt that my questions as a child were met with knowledgeable insight. Mysister paved the way in STEM subjects by starting her career in surveying working at CERN – the largest particle physics laboratory in the world – balancing magnets. Overall, we are a family who like to know how the world works.’ 

Katy Bloom – ‘My (head)teacher mother who took me off for excursions and walks every weekend to share her curiosity of the world around us. I still remember the 80cm diameter fungus that we collected for her nature table at school when I was five.’

Manjinder Jagdev – ‘My three young nephews motivate, inspire, encourage, enthuse and support all the family.’

Is there a particular scientist or inspirational famous figure that has inspired your work? 

Jane Newsworthy – ‘When I think of inspiring female scientists, the first that come to mind are actually those who work in the bioscience department at YSJ. Whilst working on my campaign I was able to get a further insight into the paths they have taken prior to working at YSJ and I felt so lucky then, that I am able to kickstart my STEM career under their supervision and guidance.’

Linda Mason – ‘I am fascinated by the way people view mathematics. A quote by Pythagoras captures my interest: ‘mighty is geometry, joined with art, resistless. Geometry is the archetype of the beauty of the world.’ Having grown up bilingual, I see mathematics as another language. The late Iranian Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani took this to another level by being the first female to be awarded the Fields medal for her outstanding contributions to the exploration of abstract geometric surfaces.’

Did being a female ever hinder your studies?

Jane Newsworthy – ‘Thankfully no. I have never felt discriminated against in the entirety of my education. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that I am confident in my femininity and I strongly believe in equality and would always be willing to defend my rights as a female.’

Katy Bloom – ‘Er yes, when I worked as an early career geophysicist in the oil industry, I had to fight for my voice. Turning up early for a seismography conference, I was told the fashion meeting was in the next room. Later as a physics teacher in secondary schools, it was vital to give a “you can do it” attitude and I am proud to act as STEM ambassador.’

What advice would you give to young female scientists?

Jane Newsworthy – ‘Without sounding cliché, there are absolutely no limitations to what you can achieve. The only person who can stand in your way is yourself, but only if you allow it. Being female is a power and not a limitation.’

Katy Bloom – ‘Look at how we are turning to science to solve current global issues; clean water for all, vaccines for COVID, renewable energy sources, sustainability issues, further antibiotic development, the threat of micro plastics. You are our future; you can change our future; be a vital part of it.’

Manjinder Jagdev – ‘Maths and science are everywhere in life. Enjoy your work, do your best and dare to be YOU.’

Linda Mason – ‘Have confidence in yourself, remain curious and be passionate about your subject.’

By Katy Harris.