The 11th of February has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The purpose of the day is to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls and to further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO data (2014 - 2016), only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. The British Society of Echocardiography welcomes the opportunity to highlight the contribution of the many female scientists in the echo community. Encouraging young women to ask questions is a key facet of our approach to inspiring greater involvement in STEM.
As part of our work to encourage young women into science and specifically, cardiac science, Becky, 22 and currently studying biomedical science at Cardiff University, caught up with Liana, Advanced Imaging Specialist (Community) at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
Becky: How were you encouraged to get into science and why do you think women have tended to avoid STEM subjects?
Liana: When I left school and looked at taking my A levels (1986) I was actively discouraged away from science subjects and was veered into subjects such as literature and sociology. It was not until I started my first job in a cardiology department as an assistant (quite by accident) that I realised that this was something I was extremely interested in and I progressed from there. I think this case is true with a vast amount of women my age and I would like to think this has improved.
Becky: Do you think enough is being done to promote women in science and is there anything additional you would like to see to encourage more women to be involved?
Liana: I do not think that there is enough done to encourage women to pursue a career in science and I think that the STEM subjects are still a predominantly male field. There is not enough information given at the right time to young people regarding the various careers in science and technology. I would like to see more careers advice as particularly in my profession, young people/women are not aware of this career path. There also continues to be very much a gender specific role in healthcare with young people only finding out about nursing or doctoring with women still steered towards the nursing role and not enough is publicised about the wider professions. Women often struggle to maintain the same level of commitment due to childcare inequalities and this needs to change with more men having joint maternity/paternity leave and knowing that this is available.
Becky: What is the ratio of men to women in your workplace and do you think your workplace has been accepting to women in more senior roles?
Liana: My workplace is female dominated, however I suspect that is more due to this career path being accidentally identified whist researching nursing careers. I think women in senior roles are now more accepted but there is still a long way to go for absolute equality.
Becky: Do you think you have had to work harder than your male counterparts to progress through your career?
Liana: Yes. As a women and having a family this causes breaks in your career that a man does not need to have or factor in to their career plan. Gaining respect from senior professionals is harder as a women; I have been in interviews where the man in the interview solely spoke to the other man and not to me.
Becky: What makes you proud to be a woman in science?
Liana: I feel that we are now leading the way for future generations of women and slowly chipping away at the glass ceiling that has limited women in the workplace. Science based careers offer wonderful and interesting opportunities and lifelong careers that should be available regardless of gender.
Becky: Any advice for women out there who are thinking about pursuing a career in science?
Liana: Do not be put off by gender perceived roles, if the career interests you then pursue it, women are leading the way in many professions and this will only get stronger.
Many thanks to Becky and Liana for sharing their thoughts!