Women In Science Day is a reminder that women play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened. The celebration is led by UNESCO and UN-Women, in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners that promote access to and participation in science.
Considering International Women’s Day this month and Women in Science day last month we have been speaking with two of our members in the measurement and testing industry about their experiences.
• Judith Russell PhD, Managing Director at Eurofins Consumer Product Testing Services UK
• Dr Belen Morales, Head of Division-Analytical Services at Sheffield Assay Office
When discussing the reasons they chose to pursue a career in science, Belen replied “I didn't like my dad’s advice that teaching or administration jobs are always for girls. That along with the fact that I had always achieved high marks in Chemistry, Physics and Maths during my school and college years.”
Judith Russell had always been interested in how things work and the quality of products and after a placement year at university focussing on Product Testing, she realised her attention to detail and curious nature was a good fit for this field.
When asked whether they felt that their career path had been the same as, or different, to their male colleagues, Judith stated that she had been very lucky with her employers and had been noticed and rewarded for her dedication and enthusiasm for the various roles she has had. Judith added that she felt that women do not always find self-promotion as natural as less-capable male colleagues and that this could hold women back, not because they are not capable of doing a role, but because they underplay their own abilities. She added “I believe that it is fundamental for managers at all levels to understand their teams and know how to ‘interpret’ communication wisely across the board to prevent this difference becoming an issue.”
Whilst the education system encourages women in the STEM field, gender bias is still prevalent in the workplace. Judith recounted a time that she visited a supplier with a junior male colleague and found that he was assumed to be the senior person simply because he was male. When asked how that made her feel she replied “Usually, after talking for a short time the presumption evaporates! I do not let things like that bother me; my response is to show my knowledge and expertise. If I am judged on that, I have no issues at all; I have not yet been faced with an initial ‘negative’ reaction that didn’t change.”
Belen added that she had experienced interviews that focussed on support from her husband and kids. She continued “Fortunately, gender differences are not seen clearly at most senior levels. I feel that all my efforts are now being recognised and I don't feel any disadvantage compared with men. However, I believe women must work harder than men to demonstrate their abilities and work ethic.”
When asked about the advice they would offer to young women who are considering a career in the STEM industries. Belen replied “My advice to young women is to believe what you are doing is important for science; find support and decide what things are worth fighting for, and what others are not worth the time or energy. Do not let gender stereotypes which are thrown at you affect your career development: Register them and proceed accordingly.”
Judith added “Go for it! It’s a great industry to be in. When evaluating companies to work for look at their values and mission statement and try to find a company that matches your own core values. At interviews ask questions about the culture of the workforce and how they are structured so that you better understand their priorities such as the number of women in senior positions, or mentoring schemes.”
Belen finished by saying “We are surrounded by wonderful scientific women who are inspiring us every day, why not be the next one!!”
You can find out more about the events please follow the links below:
• Women in science day
• International women’s day