IWD: Shifting the balance in STEM

On International Women’s Day, Ada Lovelace Day and Clarivate held an event, Shifting the balance in STEM, at Microsoft Reactor in London on getting younger girls into STEM, the issue of gender bias, and the various pathways open to girls.

Our panel, Yasmin Ali, Allison Gardner, Liz Seward, Timo Hannay and Bella Harrison (bios below) were asked by moderator Nandita Quaderi to share when and how they got interested in science. Some of the panel knew at a very early age, others didn’t like maths and science at all but later discovered another way of engaging in STEM. Bees, sperm and Star Trek all also made an appearance!

SchoolDash founder and ALD advisor Timo Hannay talked about how girls lose interest in STEM in their mid-teens, despite there being little difference in ability between them and boys. He speculated that it could be due to expectations, both their own and from adults such as teachers. Teachers’ gender might also have an impact, for instance, biology teachers are more likely to be women, whilst physics teachers are more likely to be men. Yasmin Ali pointed out how engineering was not highlighted as a career for children, and that she found out about it by accident. This is despite it being a highly rewarding and inclusive industry.

Bella Harrison from Primo Toys discussed the issues around toys being heavily gendered, and how they are aiming to make toys that are more inclusive. She also talked about how children’s interests are socially influenced, especially by their school friends, and how school activities, such as learning to code, can be supported by coding toys at home.

The event also explored organisational changes to support diversity and Liz Seward from Airbus Space Systems discussed the LGBT and neurodiverse policies that they have incorporated, as well as the diversity targets for their managers. Airbus have reached a point where about 30 percent of their incoming engineers are women, which is about the same as the number of women leaving university with an engineering degree.

Seward also made the point that diversity means letting women be women, not forcing them to behave in the same way that men do, and that companies need a range of management styles in order to really be diverse. Mentorship and sponsors are crucial to developing female leaders.

And Allison Gardner explored the emerging problems of bias in AI due to the lack of diversity in development teams. The number of women in computer science has decreased since the 1960s, and some of the interventions to try and halt this decline have not worked. To try to combat this lack of diversity, Gardner has set up a women in AI network to give access to mentors and support, so that women gain more confidence in coding.

A lively Q&A followed the discussion, and we finished the evening off with drinks and the opportunity to talk further about the issues raised.

The panel:

Liz Seward, senior strategist for Space Systems at Airbus Defence and Space. She is also the Chair of Women in Aerospace Europe’s UK group, bringing together women and men who are interested in supporting and getting involved in a more diverse and equal workforce within the space sector.

Timo Hannay, founding Managing Director of SchoolDash, an education technology company based in London that provides maps, dashboards, statistics and analysis on schools in England.

Yasmin Ali, chartered chemical engineer, writer and presenter. She was awarded the Women’s Engineering Society Young Woman Engineer award in 2013 and is passionate about promoting engineering stories and careers to the public and young people.

Bella Harrison, Operations Lead at Primo Toys. Primo creates inclusive coding toys that have introduced more than 1 million children in 180 countries to computer programming in early years.

Dr Allison Gardner, Teaching Fellow at Keele University and Programme Director for the Science Foundation Year. She is a co-founder of Women Leading in AI, encouraging women to shape the debate around the use and norms of AI and big data.

If you’d like to know more about Clarivate Analytics, follow them on Twitter @Clarivate. Clarivate is a global leader in providing trusted insights and analytics to accelerate the pace of innovation.

Women in STEM Advent calendar: All our fabulous women in one slideshow

We have finally reached the end of our Advent calendar, having featured some amazing women in STEM from around the globe and across history. Just in case you missed any, we’ve put together this handy little animation, featuring all 24 women. And if you want to go back to the beginning and read through each post – each with links to further reading! – then start with Tapputi, the first known chemist. We hope that you enjoy learning about these women’s work and achievements as much as we enjoyed putting these slides together.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Women in STEM advent calendar: Day 24 – Dr Sameera Moussa

This winter, we are celebrating the festive season by honouring 25 amazing women in STEM, some of which you might not know of!

Dr Sameera Moussa

Dr Sameera Moussa

First female Egyptian nuclear physicist
3 Mar 1917 – 5 Aug 1952

Sameera Moussa was Cairo University’s first assistant professor in the Faculty of Sciences, and the first woman to hold a university post. She founded the Atomic Energy for Peace conference which aimed to make nuclear medical treatment more accessible and reduce nuclear hazards. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and was the first non-American given access to US atomic facilities.

For more info on Dr Sameera Moussa:

Women in STEM advent calendar: Day 23 – Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier

This winter, we are celebrating the festive season by honouring 25 amazing women in STEM, some of which you might not know of!

Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier

20 Jan 1758 – 10 Feb 1836

Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier worked closely with her husband, Antoine, to identify 33 elements, explain combustion, and debunk ‘phlogiston’. She made detailed drawings of lab equipment, kept strict records of experimental procedures, and translated important papers into French. She was instrumental to the publication of the pivotal Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, which unified the field.

For more on Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier:

Women in STEM advent calendar: Day 22 – Mary the Prophetess

This winter, we are celebrating the festive season by honouring 25 amazing women in STEM, some of which you might not know of!

Mary the Prophetess

Between 1st and 3rd Centuries CE

Mary the Prophetess was an alchemist who invented the bain-Marie, (Mary’s bath), which is still in use in kitchens and labs today. She is considered the first historical Western alchemist. It is said that she perfected the art of distillation, and could prepare caput mortuum, a purple haematite iron oxide pigment. It’s thought that she founded an alchemy academy in Alexandria.

Mary is variously called Mary, Maria, or Miriam the Jewess, Prophetess or Hebrew, or Maria Prophetissima or Prophetissa.

For more on Mary the Prophetess:


Day 21 – Zelia Nuttall