July 3, 2015, by Tara de Cozar
Celebrating women in STEM
Yesterday was the fifth annual WinSET (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology) conference at the University. This is an annual event which brings together women working in STEM subjects, organised as part of the work of the WinSET group. I live-tweeted the event – you can read the storify here, or scroll down for a slide-show version.
This year’s theme was ‘Elevating Voices’. At last year’s event, delegates asked for advice and strategies for making themselves heard as researchers, so this theme was chosen in response. Dr Heather Williams of Science Grrl fame talked about problems girls and women face in STEM, and her thoughts on how we start to address that. Then Dr Christina Lee, Associate Professor in Viking Studies, talked about her experience of being the centre of a media storm following the release of the Ancientbiotics story earlier this year.
I had some really positive conversations afterwards with people who were keen to start using social media, have media training, and get their research out in front of people. But I also heard some examples of the underlying reasons why so many women aren’t putting themselves forward and making themselves visible, on social media and beyond.
One researcher was talking to me about blogs. “I’ve never done a blog.., I think of posts when I’m driving into work, and then when I get here I just think ‘no one will be interested in that’ and don’t bother publishing it.”
There are some massive generalisations ahead, so bear with me, but…
That feels like the crux of the problem. Women don’t think what they have to say is valid/relevant/interesting. Men think the opposite. So men ask the questions at conferences and introduce themselves to the eminent speaker in the bar afterwards. They apply for jobs that they’re under-qualified for and get appointed. They write blogs and tweet and are invited onto the TV and radio to talk about their work as a result. And they accept those invitations, because they believe that they are an expert and people will be interested. I heard the polar opposite to these ‘male’ attitudes voiced over and over again yesterday.
This is nonsense. The University of Nottingham is a hotbed of amazing work. If you are a researcher here – whatever your gender – your work is worth talking about. Other people will be interested in it, that’s a certainty.
So contact the press team, write a blog, sign up for Twitter, do some media training, get yourself on a conference organising committee. And encourage your students and colleagues to do the same. You’ll build your confidence, your profile, and you’ll be an inspiration to other female researchers – both current and future.