It’s International Day for Women and Girls in Science and a great opportunity to celebrate the brilliant women who inspire me, both in my career as a reporter on programmes like Tomorrow’s World, Hospital Watch and Bang Goes The Theory and most recently in the thirteen years of TeenTech.
On Tomorrow’s World, I had the great fortune to work with some very talented women both on and off camera who remain my closest friends. Those generous women were responsible for some of the most exciting (and nerve-racking) days of my life as we explored the frontiers of science and technology together all over the world. They came from very different academic backgrounds – some had degrees, others didn’t but they shared a common mission to honestly reflect some of the most complicated scientific and moral issues of the time. You will know Judith Hann, who sat across from me in the office surrounded by scented geraniums and a pile of British Medical Journals. She was deeply interested in medicine but also in horticulture and food. Over the years some of my happiest memories are being in her home, eating her delicious food and admiring the vision she had for creating one of the loveliest gardens I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t have a formal science background so Tomorrow’s World was my degree course. The reason I share that seemingly trivial anecdote about Judith is that people who work in science are first and foremost rounded people. They love science but they also love music, dogs, film, travel and sport.
This week I’ll be meeting up with two of my other close TW mates – Sally Dixon, a wonderful executive producer who worked with me on four series of Hospital Watch, giving me first-hand insight into the breadth of careers in health and Teresa Hunt who terrified me on a film trip to Switzerland. No amount of filming in a chocolate factory could compensate for being asked to demonstrate a crazy way to rescue people from ski-lifts by being flown over a mountainside, suspended in a cage dangling from a helicopter.
But stereotypes still persist and one of the things TeenTech does is to challenge ideas young people may have formed about what it really means to work in science and technology. One of my favourite quotes from a teenager at one of our festivals was ‘I always thought scientists were dull and boring. And usually men. With beards. But here they’re so full of life and funny”
We’re currently planning all our Summer festivals and on calls yesterday we were discussing ideas with women working in very different sectors, from climate science to food science, medical technology to agriculture –all in a wide variety of roles from research to project management, product design to marketing. Some had come into their roles as graduates, others as apprentices.
As Karen Dean, who is Principal Flavourist at GSK says, “In my experience, many young girls think that a science degree means you have to be a doctor or a scientist but my career path shows there is so much more you can do with science.”
So here at TeenTech, it’s always international day for women and girls in Science!
Do register on our site if you’d like to take a look at the many different ways your students or children could benefit.
We’re very proud of the fact that over 60% of the 15,000 students who take part in our initiatives every year identify as female and we enjoy helping them develop an understanding of the many, many doors open to them. We owe a massive debt to our fantastic sponsors and supporters. Along with them, we feel incredibly proud of our alumni, now enjoying careers in areas of science, technology and engineering which didn’t even exist when I was on Tomorrow’s World.