Sky News reports that the proportion of young women studying science in further education is dramatically lower compared to girls in schools. Here, Dame Mary Archer, chair of the Science Museum Group, explains how famous figures from history can inspire a new generation of female scientists.
I have always loved science. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by understanding what things are made of and motivated by curiosity to find out for myself.
I did my first experiment at the age of seven. It involved a worm and I’m afraid the worm did not come off very well.
It is interesting and noble work and the prospect of being a scientist led me to study chemistry at university. But that is where I became unusual.
Children are roughly 50/50 when it comes to gender and all children who go to school study science to some level.
But when you look at the numbers choosing to study sciences in further education, the proportion of young women drops dramatically. This is something we are working hard to address across the Science Museum Group but we have to do more. More to increase gender equality in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers in the UK.
When you look at the history of STEM, there are tales of intrepid endeavours and amazing discoveries.
But I think of inspirational women like Ada Lovelace, the 19th century mathematician who worked on a general purpose computer, or Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space and still the only one to complete a solo space flight.
In recent decades, we have seen a growth in the opportunities for women to establish long and successful careers in science and the number of individuals and organisations working to support this increase.
Initiatives like the Year of Engineering and the Science Museum’s Engineer Your Future gallery show that women are leading and contributing to some of the most valuable scientific and technological advancements of the day. But we can and must do more to help girls and young women feel that science is truly for them.
Will apprenticeships help tackle the gender gap? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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