[UK] Women in Science: Changing the game for women in science: it’s not a one-stop-shop

Dr Seirian Sumner and Dr Nathalie Pettorelli – Independent – Monday, 22 July 2013 (originally published 21 Jul)

NES TSIONA, ISRAEL - JANUARY 22:  A laboratory technician places human blood samples on an automated testing line at the Maccabi Health Services HMO central testing laboratory January 22, 2006 in Nes Tsiona which is located in central Israel. The laboratory, which operates a fully automated system complete with advanced robotics, can test more than 50,000 blood samples a day. The lab is considered one of the most modern of its kind in the western world.
Image: David Silverman/Getty Image

Scientists are generally viewed as private creatures who shy away from contact with the public. What, therefore, could be more remarkable than stumbling across a bunch of real live scientists standing on soapboxes on the streets of London, talking about their science to anyone who will stop and listen? This happened on the Southbank, London earlier this month when over 1000 people stopped in their tracks to listen to some of the top UK scientists. Lunch-on-the-run city workers, kids wild with sunshine, tourists buried in cameras and sun cream, joggers with sweat in their eyes. Our scientists didn’t care who they spoke to – the ethos of Soapbox Science is that science is for everyone.

Soapbox Science is not just a quirky, grass roots science outreach event – there is a more serious message underlying it, personified by our speakers, who are all women. The message is simple: the gender bias in science today is lamentable and needs to be addressed now.

The statistics are indeed horrifying: only 13 per cent of all Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs in the UK (including health occupations) are occupied by women (WISE 2012) despite rather equal gender representations at ‘A’ level and undergraduate level for many STEM disciplines . . .

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