I was lucky enough to see Baroness Susan Greenfield, the neurologist and brain researcher, in a talk she gave recently about why there were so few women in the sciences. She took questions from the floor and handled them deftly. She was asked about what companies could be doing to retain more women scientists.
She felt adequately supporting returners was key and talked about how impressed she had been whilst working in France to see that the labs had on-site creches so that mothers could see their children in between experiments. That certainly sounds like a great way forward for larger employers who are dedicated to keeping their well trained women for longer.
Additionally, in her opinion, there were four key ways to reach young women considering science. What do you think are the most important?
- Explode myths about who does and doesn’t "do" science.
- Have accessible role models with whom young women can identify.
- Demonstrate the relevance of science to everyday life.
- Show the career potential and the caring side of science – not all "scientists" work in labs!
Sometimes it feels a bit chicken and egg-ish to me – is it better to put money towards support for returners or towards interventions that encourage young girls towards these fields? And the thought that keeps me up at night, do we really want to encourage young girls to enter these fields if we haven’t left them working conditions and career prospects worth aspiring to?