Some girls report perceiving science as a career, as DULL, but maybe it’s the science sector that’s behind the times?
STEM pipeline: Science, technology, engineering and maths
I wanted to explore the reasons women are not entering certain areas of the pipeline, is it so DULL that girls are being put off?
So putting my reporter hat on, I set out to Forest Research in Roslin, to find a female scientist.
I met Kate Beauchamp, Climate Change Adaptation Scientist.
‘I enjoyed science at school and did not then, or now consider it to be ‘dull’. I had a good female science teacher who encouraged me, and I never personally experienced any gender segregation at school or at university.
My passion for being outdoors and being part of the Duke of Edinburgh program also shaped the science subjects I took. I became interested in forestry during my BSC in Biology; and then I studied for a Masters in Forest Conservation & a PhD in tree physiology.
The route to becoming a scientist is not an easy one, I don’t mean just the academic side(which takes years of study and can be very stressful)it’s more around the lack of post-doctoral jobs in which you can actually use your degree, and there are so many people out there with PhD’s, male and female, so your up against a lot of competition. Most of my friends in academia have diversified from their degree and used the fact they have a degree or PhD to get into a higher level of employment.
Lots of science jobs are ‘funded’ hence few are permanent post or allow flexible working, so you often need to be willing to go from one short term contract to another. This does raise an issue for women and for me personally when I went on maternity leave. The reality is that it may mean ‘you leave’, as the post may no longer be open when you’re able to return. The uncertainty does not easily fit with family life.
I find to succeed in science jobs you also need to have good relationship building skills, you need to be out there applying for grants, talking the talk, and this requires an element of confidence and different skill set to those you are trained in at university.
So I do feel that men probably have more opportunities than women due to the culture within scientific jobs; not being sufficiently flexible to support women. I am sure all the policies are there but it’s the reality of life that still needs working on.