The theme for International Woman’s Day in 2020 is “I am Generation Equality.” It’s a theme that celebrates the progress that has been made in some part of the world, while also recognising that for many women in other parts of the world, progress is still painfully slow.
In the UK, we are pleased to reveal that the number of women studying and working in STEM fields has been on the rise. According to UCAS data provided by HESA, 35% of students studying STEM in higher education in the UK are women. The percentage of the STEM workforce comprising of women has near tripled since the 1970s and in the past couple of decades, we have seen more and more young girls choosing to go into mathematical, science and engineering fields.
So why did we spend International Women’s Week posting about female innovators of the 1900s?
We Need More Role Models
If we asked you to name a brilliant scientist or innovator from the past century, who would you name? Albert Einstein? Stephen Hawkings? Nikola Tesla? There is no denying that these men were brilliant, but pioneering women like Ada Lovelace or Katerine Johnson often remain hidden from the mainstream view. Stephen Hawking is a fine role model for any young boy or girl, but young girls need inspiring women to look up to as well. Celebrating accomplished women in science and tech demonstrates what can be achieved through hard work and determination.
Having a role model is crucial for helping people define their career and stretch further. A lack of female role models in STEM can have a negative impact on the number of young girls from the new generation choosing STEM-orientated careers.
Professor Sue Black explains: “We all need role models. Those role models need to look and think like us and we need them to be visible in the media, as well as in society at large so that they can reach and inspire as many people as possible.”
There’s not a lack of brilliant women in STEM. We just need to celebrate the ones we already have more to help create role models for the next generation.
We Owe It To The Women Who Changed The World
In addition to owing it to a generation of aspiring young women, we owe it to the innovators themselves to acknowledge their achievements. Ada Lovelace, for example, published her work under the name “A.A.L” for Augusta Ada Lovelace so that her work would not be dismissed due to her gender. Charles Babbage received the credit for creating the analytic machine, but it was Ada who translated his article and added the ideas to the machine that made it possible. For too long, Ada’s contribution to the computer went unnoticed. It’s time we start paying attention to the women who were uncredited for the brilliant work they did in the STEM field.
New Ways of Thinking
Finally, increasing the number of women in STEM fields opens up the possibility for more types of problems to be solved. We are in no way saying that gender limits potential as we believe that everybody, regardless of gender, has the potential to think up a game-changing idea. Nonetheless, women and men typically have different experiences and interact with some problems differently. Diversifying STEM fields create scope for new problems to be identified and new solutions to be proposed. Ultimately, ensuring that women are not discouraged from studying STEM is more than a step in the direction of equality. It is a step in the direction of scientific progress. And this can be seen if we look at the brilliant women that came before us.
The scope of this blog may be narrow, but the conclusion is simple. All the while we are encouraging young girls into STEM fields, we need to make an effort to celebrate the women who dedicated their lives to innovation and progress. The stories of these women are not special simply because they are women. They are special because they are stories of the value of determination and dedication in the face of adversity. And the courage to try new ideas is something we nurture very seriously at Building Imagination.
Is your daughter a budding young innovator? Contact us here to find out how Building Imagination can help take your child’s STEM journey to the next level.