If you’re an engineer who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m an Engineer at imanengineer.org.uk/engineer-apply.
I had done quite a lot of science outreach within schools before I took part in the Space for All Zone last March, so I had a good idea of the issues I wanted to try and address with the prize money – namely being 1) under representation of women in science, and 2) misrepresentation of what science and engineering is.
My first idea was to create leaflets to send to widening participation schools, one a very illustrative one showing the different types of science and engineering jobs which affect everyday life, and the second would focus on women in science, to give role models to female students interested in STEM. Throughout the I’m an Engineer process, and with the feedback of the young people I speaking to, I decided to focus solely on the issues around women in science.
Now, creating 2 leaflets wouldn’t have been too much work – my husband is a graphic designer and my dad works in printing press – I couldn’t have been better placed.
However, I wanted to do more than just print a leaflet and send it to schools. I wanted to create something multi-layered, that would engage with people and give a chance for people to interact with it. Something that can evolve and develop, rather than just a static piece of paper. So instead, I used the money to start my own campaign, Women of Science, sharing stories of women in STEM.
The premise of the idea is based on Humans of New York – simple portrait photos, with short quotes about the person’s life. I find this method so engaging, personally, but I have also been following the impact of this method and its various sister campaigns – and it has been phenomenal. Also, it brings together several things I am passionate about – Science, equality, outreach, and photography!
My main aim with Women of Science is to engage people about the lives of female scientists – to show them as relatable people, to give young people some real attainable role models, to truly show how diverse and how multidisciplinary the sciences are – and to tell a scientist’s story which is more than a fact file of qualifications and day to day duties.
These scientists might like fashion like you do, they might like football, they might enjoy cooking. Science may not (and probably isn’t) the be all and end all of their existence, they are not geniuses – they are regular people, who do science, and happen to be female.
This is what I wanted to showcase through a website, social media sites, and leaflets in the form of collectable postcards to send to schools. Featuring one woman a fortnight, and exploring her life and interests through 3-4 simple photographs and quotes, with a blog post attached with more information – making female scientist role models truly attainable, and trying to break any of the stereotypes that are out there.
Although showcasing the stories of these women to young females interested in science is my main aim through Women of Science, I am also using the platform to talk about other issues around diversity in the sciences, and to present research in the form of clear infographics. I also hope to be able to boost the recognition of the women I speak to – to promote their own blogs and social media sites, to promote their research papers and published work, and to also create a resource not just for young people, but for all women working in the sciences.
So far the prize funds have been spent on setting up the website – www.womenofsci.com, purchasing interview equipment, and the rest will go on postcards business cards and stickers for events.
When I put the call out in March for women to be involved – I got a staggering 40 women from all across the UK and EU wanting to be involved – passionately wanting to be involved! That’s many months of stories to get out there and I can’t wait for all of you to read them.
I am really humbled to have some really fantastic women doing some really exciting things who have offered not just their time but also their support and encouragement to me and this campaign. The website will continue to be updated week on week as well as the social media streams. I will use the blog part of the website to showcase my own story as a women/communicator/human in STEM, and I will send an annual round of postcards to schools (funding permitting).
And that’s not it! I have a habit of dreaming big – and I want to push this campaign to be something different, something new. I have ideas for a photography exhibition type event with talks on women of science, talks to schools, creating a installation wall of anecdotes and advice from women of science at schools and universities, and perhaps one day a magazine, showcasing wonderful ordinary women in stem, telling their stories, sharing their research, giving them all a voice, discussing the most recent research on the area. So if anybody has any free time and a whole bunch of money – you know where I am!
Check out the Women of Science website and subscribe to receive a monthly newsletter including new stories, blogs and updates.
To get involved, or for more information, contact Rhys at www.womenofsci.com/contact