STEM + WISE, Female Role Models

For anyone who doesn’t know, the equation expands to:
‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths’ + ‘Women in Science & Engineering’. Let’s stick with WISE and assume ‘Science & Engineering’ includes ‘Technology & Maths’ because WISTEM just looks like bad spelling.

I’ve written this post for Ada Lovelace Day 2015, after a request from @suw, on behalf of @FindingAda for men to say that they want to be treated equally to women too. Suw spoke about Ada at Brum Skeptics in the Pub and we had a very informative Q & A.

I last met Suw some years ago after she talked about Social Media. Over the buffet lunch I told her, on learning that she was a techie who’d worked in music journalism and played bass, that she sounded like my idea of a perfect woman. While I was thinking “Hang on, that didn’t sound right!”, a man appeared behind her and she cheerfully introduced me to her new fiancee. I wondered last night if I was “One of those men at conferences” she told us about. She and her half a gin were right though, she is a kick-ass speaker.

Suw mentioned research I was vaguely aware of that shows that girls are more dependent than boys on having good role models of their own gender. Here is the reference she referred to:

Click to access same-gender-role-models.pdf

She admitted that after having Ada suggested as a figurehead, she had struggled to think of any prominent female scientists. This led to a discussion about sexism in toys and providing good female communicators to present science, in science fiction or on TV. Maggie Philbin was mentioned before someone asked what female scientist you would ask to front a TV programme now. There were no replies. As a boy, interested in computation science getting WISEr, I’ve been keeping a list of female scientists and science communicators but couldn’t remember them all so I kept my powder dry until now:

Maggie Philbin. She is only 60. John Humphrys is 72, so why not her?

Hannah Fry – see her rather excellent ‘Calculating Ada: the Countess of Computing’ (only 8 days left), ‘Computing Britain’ on Radio 4 or ‘6 Degrees of Separation’, hosted by Brian Cox.

Blue Peter’s Konnie Huq presented Ada Lovelace in ‘Great Lives’ on Radio 4.

Georgina Ferry presented ‘The Letters of Ada Lovelace’

Claudia Hammond, ‘All in the Mind’

Aleks Krotoski ‘Digital Human’

Lucie Green, @Dr_Lucie, Professor of Physics & solar specialist on ‘Sky at Night’

Massive credit should go to The Life Scientific, hosted by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, for including so many women in the recent series.

@AtheneDonald, Cambridge Physics Professor (a life scientific)
@j_dunkley, Oxford Astrophysics Professor

@HelenArney of ‘Festival of the Spoken Nerd’ standup science
and her sister @harpsikat ‘The Nigella of Science’

@AliceBell Tweets on climate change

@DrAliceRoberts Professor of Public Engagement in Science, Birmingham University

@PintofScience Birmingham coordinators
@ZaniaStamataki, virology, immunology & liver biology
@DrCharli-F, Neuroscientist

I recently saw a photograph of a letter signed “A. Ada Byron” by the young future code poet. Hanah Fry’s programme told me for the first time that, against her mother’s wishes, Ada chose to be buried alongside her father. It was mentioned at the meeting that men often become champions of WISE when they have daughters. Maybe the patriarchal instincts aren’t all bad.


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