National Science and Engineering Week is 15th to 24th March. Although this IQ woman still has recurring nightmares about her A level chemistry exam, clearly there are many other IQ women that go on to greater things in the field of science and engineering! Unfortunately though, whilst many women qualify as scientists and engineers over 70% leave the profession (compared to just 50% of men) and very few continue on to become experts.
Why is this ‘Braindrain’ happening? Unfortunately it’s the usual old story of lack of employment flexibility, training and childcare options. Not only that there is the ‘macho’ culture of these areas of profession which goes hand in hand with women’s lack of confidence. Even these highly intelligent women working in these sectors are less likely than men to perceive themselves more competent at their jobs than their colleagues, and less likely to apply for jobs where they don’t exactly meet all the criteria.
What is being done to combat this brain drain? Well, WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) promote ‘female talent in science, engineering and technology from classroom to boardroom’. Their mission is to increase the gender balance in the UK’s science, technology and engineering workforce, pushing the presence of female employees from 13% as it stands now, to 30% by 2020. They also have the annual WISE awards for people who actively promote science, technology and engineering to women and girls.
It may be too late for some of us to enter the field of science/technology/engineering but we can certainly promote it to the younger ladies and girls in our lives. The British Science Association have some great free activity packs for you to download and also a list of activities going on in your area. Lighting your first Bunsen burner, sticking your finger into mercury, getting static hair on a van der graaf generator – science at school was fun. Make this week the week where you do some science with your kids and remember the fun you had. You may just inspire the next Marie Curie….