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Inspirational stories on International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Published: Feb 11, 2021 5 min read

STEM learning

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science we’re celebrating some of the fabulous female STEM role models we’re proud to work with.

The stories of these inspirational women provide a fascinating insight into how their love of science began, their career journeys so far and how they’ve made such a positive impact on the female STEM stars of the future...

Sarah Chapman, segment application engineering manager for 3M and STEM Ambassador.

Sarah Chapman

I remember how my chemistry teacher told our class how she had previously worked in industry and her job had been to formulate a well-known soft drink to maintain consistency despite changes in the fruit harvest. That blew my mind – it was the first time I’d seen science as relevant to everyday life. I went on to graduate with a degree in chemistry.

There are so many amazing projects out there; the STEM Learning website is a great place to find resources, especially for STEM Clubs. My favourite projects are those aimed at the general public – I love watching the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

There have been many memorable moments during my time as a STEM Ambassador. There was such a buzz the first time we welcomed 60 primary school children into our offices at 3M for an ideas workshop. Ten years later, students applying for work experience told us they remember that visit from their childhood. For many, it would have been their first experience in a workplace meeting real scientists and engineers.

With thousands of STEM Ambassadors across the UK helping to create similar experiences for young people, I am confident that, collectively, we can really make a difference. 

Are you a teacher or technician looking to equip yourself with the tools to inspire young people, just like Sarah’s chemistry teacher? We’ve got a huge range of face to face (currently being delivered remotely), online, remote and bespoke CPD with bursaries widely available too, find our courses here.

Kanchana Gamage, STEM engagement coordinator at STEMPOINT East, founder of The Aviatrix Project and STEM Ambassador.

Growing up in Sri Lanka near the approach to Colombo airport and seeing aircraft flying over the ocean triggered my passion for aviation. From a young age I knew I wanted to become a pilot and dreamed about flying over the vast oceans. My interest remained and I gained my private pilot’s licence in 2015. Meanwhile I was working as a primary teacher, headteacher and then a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University as course leader for the primary education programme. I’m now STEM engagement lead at STEMPOINT East.

I was determined to influence the industry to ensure a more diverse workforce. Combining my educational experience and passion for aviation, I set up The Aviatrix Project in 2015. As a Community Interest Company, it’s entirely self-funded and encourages women and girls and those from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider a career in aviation.

It’s so important to ensure that strong role models emerge from all walks of life. We need to ensure that we use our skills within STEM to challenge stereotypes and support schools and families in changing perceptions. We’re at a crossroads, and I can see things changing - but it takes passionate people with the right mindset to do this.

As a BAME STEM Ambassador I feel a great sense of responsibility to ensure that I continue to be a role model for the next generation. As part of my Ambassador role, I visited Mill Mead Primary School in Hertfordshire for an aviation afternoon where we ran workshops on flight planning and meteorology. The children also met a commercial pilot who really inspired them when she spoke about her career.

STEM Ambassadors like Kanchana are still available to inspire young people remotely. Find out how your school or college can receive a virtual visit here.

Erika Rowe, graduate process engineer at Babcock International and STEM Ambassador.

In my role I support the maintenance of nuclear-powered submarines in service with the Royal Navy. Engineering is so varied and impacts every aspect of everyday life. Engineers are constantly working to improve society and use their knowledge to solve problems that affect all of us, including climate change and COVID.

As an engineer there are always new technologies or something you’re unsure of how to do. It's important to remember that you do have the skills available to apply yourself to new tasks and you can continue to learn. I’ve recently completed additional safety and training courses to help me do this.

Why should more women and girls choose STEM? There will always be exciting opportunities in STEM careers as technology evolves, often in areas such as robotics, medicine and computer technology. You’ll learn many important skills and be able to apply the maths and science you learn in school to the real world. By choosing STEM you can help people, solve problems and make a real difference!

For more about how we help teachers play a pivotal role in the STEM career development of young people – something Erika is so passionate about - visit our careers pages here.