Science in Your Future: Diamond's event for girls

‘Science in Your Future’ series to encourage more girls into science

Students built rocket ships using marshmallows and spaghetti
Students built rocket ships using marshmallows and spaghetti

Despite some gains, women are still underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. In 2010, the UK Resource Centre reported that just one in twenty working women are employed in STEM occupations compared to one in three men, and although girls and boys tend to perform equally well in GCSE science subjects, data from the Institute of Physics shows that almost half of all maintained co-ed schools put no girls forward for A-level physics in 2011.
 
Much is being done to address this gender imbalance in STEM, and the UK’s synchrotron Diamond Light Source is at the forefront of efforts to encourage young women into the sciences. In partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Diamond has launched Science in Your Future: a flagship event which targets girls aged 14-18 and introduces them to the STEM industry and the women who work in it.
Many different STEM organisations volunteered their time
Many different STEM organisations volunteered their time
After a very successful pilot initiative, the Science in Your Future series held its second event today. Around 80 secondary school aged girls descended on the synchrotron to take a look at female scientists in action. The girls were taken on a tour of Diamond, learning about the cutting edge machine that’s so integral to the modern STEM industry. Here, they were introduced to female scientists and academics and invited to ask them about their experiences as women in science and their advice for young women interested in a similar career.
 
The day owed much of its success to the broad range of science organisations who volunteered their time to run stalls and workshops for the visiting students. The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory ran a rocket-building workshop in which the girls put their engineering prowess to the test. This was complemented by a product concept and design workshop run by IBM, in which groups designed a novel product. Finally, the students took part in a question and answer session with women in science. This workshop run by the Institute of Physics gave the girls an opportunity to discuss with female scientists their own perceptions of science and why fewer girls choose STEM careers. Other organisations who ran stalls at the event included the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, Science Oxford, STFC Apprentices, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, the Women in Engineering Society, and Explore Your Universe.
The girls were amazed to visit the facility and see science in action
The girls were amazed to visit the facility and see science in action
Science in Your Future proved a huge success with the girls who attended. Mehreen Omar, a year 12 student, commented: “I’ve always been interested in science but I didn’t consider physics and chemistry, only biology. Now I can see the breadth of science available.” Mehreen continues: “There are so many inspiring female scientists here. When we learn about science it’s all men. All we see is male scientists, male stereotypes, but I think that’s changing.”
 
Natasha Plaister and Jenny Mant from the Institute of Physics agree about the importance of providing young women with role models in the sciences. Jenny comments: “The Institute of Physics is really interested in getting more girls involved in physics. That’s why it’s so interesting to run discussion workshops and talk to the girls to find out what they think. From their responses it’s clear that mentoring and seeing women in science is really important.” Natasha adds: “As a society, we really need to address the shortfall for the sake of our future and scientific output as a country.”

Diamond is proud to host a plethora of talented and expert female scientists. The hope is that, by conveying the wonder and impact of what women do at the synchrotron, we can inspire the next generation of female scientists and show them how important they are to the future of science.