Today we’re sharing STEM Insights from Dr Kirsty Ross, Outreach Officer, EPSRC/MRC CDT in optical medical imaging & Technology & Innovation Centre (bionanotechnology theme), University of Strathclyde
Q1. Why do think getting more girls into STEM subjects is important?
Women make up 51% of the world’s population but those in STEM fields is a lot lower. The world is facing significant challenges, and the best chance we have of solving them is if everyone’s point of view is equally represented at all levels. Many of these challenges can be better understood using STEM. STEM skills are going to be vital for future jobs, which may or may not exist yet! No one has a crystal ball about what is best for you and your life, but having STEM skills in your arsenal will make sure you are prepared and ready for whatever your future career will throw at you!
Q2. With a magic wand and no barriers, what initiative or step-change would you introduce to get more girls into STEM?
If I had a magic wand, I would remove all forms of stereotyping from the world. It would allow everyone to pursue the career that they find personally fulfilling, with no one telling that them that “it isn’t a job for a girl”. From a more practical point of view, I would introduce improved training so that nurseries and parents could support children in STEM exploration, without explicit or implicit bias.
Q3. When or what made you realise that STEM subjects weren’t just for boys?
To be honest, I never thought that STEM subjects were just for boys. I just knew I wanted to be a scientist and what I needed to do to get there. I only really noticed a difference when I was one of just 3 girls studying physics in a group of 40+ boys. At university there were a lot more girls than boys in my degree programme (biological sciences).
Q4. Within the STEM field, who inspired you most to follow your career path?
I have always had mentors along the way. These may have been formal or informal, but all helped me explore options available to me so that I could make the most informed choice. At the moment, people I consider my mentors and friends are Dr Susie Mitchell at Glasgow City of Science, Dr Mhairi Stewart at the University of St Andrews, and Dr Helen Szoor-McElhinney at the University of Edinburgh. Most people are more than willing to give you a helping hand. All you have to do is ask (and offer to take them out to coffee!).
Q5. Writing back to your old self at the age of 14, picking your all-important exam subjects, what would you say to yourself with hindsight?
* You are going to be fine! The world is a lot more interdisciplinary just now, so picking one subject doesn’t prevent you doing another in the future. Having said that, civil engineering as a career looks awesome, so don’t let math teachers who are negative about your abilities put you off!
* Look for extra help to make sense of subjects that aren’t making sense.
* If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The worse thing that can happen is someone says no. There is absolutely no harm in asking for help.
* Lastly, think of the problems you want to solve, not what do you want to be when you grow up. Knowing your ultimate destination helps you make more informed choices along the way.