It’s evident that women are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields — only 14.4 percent of all people with STEM-related jobs in the U.K. are female — but what’s less clear is how to fix it.
One tactic that’s been proven to make a difference for young girls is having female role models. Research from Microsoft found that a majority of girls (51 percent) are much more likely to consider a STEM-related career if they have someone to look up to (fictional or not).
For parents of toddlers, a good place to start is buying copies of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist. And for real life examples for women and girls of all ages to admire, keep reading to discover the best of the best in STEM.
The architect: Farshid Moussavi, OBE
Iranian-born Moussavi moved to London for boarding school before training in architecture at institutions including the University of Dundee and Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she now teaches. She leads her eponymous architectural firm, and is an author, lecturer and Royal Academician who has designed a range of exciting spaces. These include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, the Toys department at Harrods in London and Victoria Beckham’s flagship stores in London and Hong Kong. She has also co-designed award-winning projects like the Yokohama International Cruise Terminal and the Ravensbourne College of Media and Communication in London.
Her next prominent commission? She beat out Rem Koolhaas and David Chipperfield to win the Ismaili Center Houston design brief — the first building of its kind in the U.S. Even though Moussavi’s turned plenty of ideas into brilliant realities, she still thinks big. She told Wallpaper that her dream job is “a project where its ambitions are far greater than its means.”
The physicist: Dr. Jess Wade
Not only is Dr. Wade making a name for herself in her research investigating polymer-based, light-emitting diodes at the Blackett Lab at Imperial College, London, she is actively campaigning to encourage more women to consider STEM careers. She’s doing this by creating more Wikipedia articles focusing on female academics and scientists and engaging school girls through science-based festivals and events at Imperial College. Every day in 2018, she started a new Wikipedia biography of a woman, person of colour or LGBTQ+ scientist or engineer, writing more than 450 pages herself.
“There’s very little structural advice out there on what you actually need to study to pursue a career in science. That’s why girls and those from other under-represented groups need role models to show them the way,” she said, according to Imperial College London.
The inventor: Emily Brooke, MBE
If you’re feeling safer when you’re out cycling, chances are that Emily Brooke had something to do with it. The inventor created the laser light found on London’s Santander bikes, among other safety lights and accessories as part of her company, Beryl (named after English racing cyclist, Beryl Burton). Tests have shown that the Beryl projecting bike-symbol light can increase a cyclist’s visibility by up to 32 percent for other vehicles and motorists.
In addition to keeping cyclists as safe as possible — and encouraging more people to cycle — Emily is creating bike share schemes for companies and cities worldwide. Her laser light idea was initially part of her final-year project at the University of Brighton.
The space flight expert and engineer: Libby Jackson
Libby Jackson discovered her passion for space as a kid and has been actively pursuing her astronomical dreams ever since (she penned a travel guide to Mars in grade school and at 17 applied to work at NASA). She has a BSc in Physics from Imperial College London and an MEng in Astronautics and Space Engineering from Cranfield University. Currently human spaceflight and microgravity programme manager at the UK Space Agency, Jackson oversaw Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station from 2015 to 2016. She has been inspiring the next generation with her children’s book, A Galaxy of One’s Own: Amazing Stories of Women in Space, which tells the stories of 50 inspiring women who worked in space, from scientists to astronauts.
“I was not a cool or popular kid at school — even at an all-girls’ school, people judged me because I liked physics and maths,” Jackson told Stylist. “My parents have always been incredibly supportive and said ‘Just go and do what you what you want to.’”
The femtech entrepreneur: Tania Boler
What happens when women go into STEM professions? They change — and improve — the lives of millions of other women. Just look at Tania Boler. The CEO and co-founder of Elvie, a technology company aiming to improve women’s lives with better products. For example, Elvie created an award-winning Kegel trainer that syncs to an app to help you strengthen pelvic floors and alleviate bladder control issues.
Elvie’s latest invention is just as exciting: a wearable breast pump that’s silent and discreet enough to slip into a nursing bra so a woman can go about their day-to-day lives.
“Have skin like a rhino. You should never take anything too personally. It’s often hard to hear criticism about something you are so passionate about and have worked so hard for but sometimes some of the best change comes from the criticism and advice of others,” Boler told Medium.
The mathematician and computing queen: Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon, MBE
Co-founder of STEMettes, Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon is a mathematician and prodigy who passed her A-level in computing aged 11. She has a master’s in mathematics and computer science from the University of Oxford and worked at financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank before co-founding STEMettes to introduce the next generation to computing, coding and STEM subjects, reaching tens of thousands of girls with its free events and hackathons.
“There was a gap because nothing out there made you feel you like you were special or part of something cool. And that’s where STEMettes came from — that’s why it’s free, fun and there’s food,” Imafidon told the Evening Standard.