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The future of science is looking female, part 2

INSPIRING: Vanessa Madu, second from left, talks during a meeting with the IET Junior Board

"I THINK that there is a lot of room for change in our society, and with influential women and people actually stepping into bigger platforms to encourage our young people to go into STEM, we can incite change,” adds Howson.

To read part 1 of this piece, click here.

Madu adds:

“I almost questioned myself when I went to the University of Cambridge’s mathematical facility, and saw that I was the only woman in the room, and the only person of African descent. I thought, ‘Hmm, should I do this?’, but I stepped away from the situation and realised that I love this subject with a passion and being one of the few shouldn’t stop me. In fact, it should motivate me to be one of the few who goes in and breaks down those stereotypes.”

Breaking down stereotypes is one of the key issues within the UK STEM sector, as a study published in 2015 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found girls still lack the confidence to pursue high-paid careers in science and technology, despite their school results being as good as – or better than – boys’ results.

Wandji believes that the lack of encouragement and knowledge in schools contributes largely to the current skills crisis and gender and race inequality issues within the industry. She says:

“I don’t think we’re encouraged enough – I’m still in Year 10 and I didn’t learn about STEM until I was in Year 8, which I don’t think is right.

“I do think if we are encouraged more, and we develop more knowledge, there will be a significant number of young women and even men entering into that fi eld,” Wandji concludes.

This passion for STEM is clearly exhibited among the four girls, as they continue to share their thoughts on how the media and government can help increase the amount of young BAME people going into STEM.

“Work experience is something that would definitely help,” suggests Wandji.

Howsen adds:

“In all girls’ schools it is OK to like physics, engineering and maths, but in mixed schools, you don’t get that as much. The boys usually gravitate towards physics and maths, while the girls, maybe, do not.”

When discussing the future of STEM, the ladies had very thorough opinions on their concerns for the industry under a Conservative Government.

Fidegnon says:

“I think for the STEM sector, the biggest problem at the moment is Brexit and education. So under a Conservative government, the cuts to education will continue and I feel like the cuts are really preventing schools from getting into the type of schemes and extra curriculars that get young students into STEM.”

OPTIMISTIC

While the group have voiced their concerns, they do remain optimistic about their future STEM careers.

“My goal is to study architecture, but I would also like to do environmental engineering on the side,” says Howsen.

“I would like to graduate from university with a degree in mechanical engineering, and have a job I enjoy,” says Fidegnon.

“I would also like to work on an engineering project that will make a difference and have an impact on the world.”

Madu says her plans for the future are to study maths and “to continue to help young people engage in STEM”.

She adds:

“I want to be developing maths that the engineers will then go on to use.

“We can only go so far with what we have, and we need to be developing new tools all the time, and that is what we need the mathematicians to do.”

And for Wandji, her bright future is still shaping-up.

“I haven’t thought as far ahead as the other girls, but hopefully I’ll go to university and create a name for myself as someone that young people can look up to.

“I also want to continue to find ways to get rid of the stereotype that girls aren’t able to do certain things.”

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