How do you solve a problem like girls in physics?

Girls in Physics event

Three years ago my colleagues and I sat down to discuss how we could, in our own small way, help to tackle the problem of a low uptake of A level physics by girls. The result was a termly event called Girls in Physics.

The aim of this evening event is to create a space for girls to network with each other, to meet students with similar interests, and to expose them to researchers and industry professionals who have careers in physics and engineering.

Girls and their female parents or carers were invited from schools across north London. This is because often I have found at parents’ evenings that mothers express a lack of confidence in their mathematical or physics ability, and parents in general often don’t know where studying physics for A level can lead.

Every event includes two talks from speakers, in which they shared they work or research as well as their personal journey and experience of being a female physicist or engineer.

"Some of our speakers have been found through the fantastic STEM Ambassadors network, which has been really easy to use and communicate through."

We have heard from all types of people who work in a variety of engineering firms, such as ARUP and Cundall, as well as academic researchers who’ve talked about everything from quantum tunnelling to using forensic analysis of bomb explosions to help the police, from using infrared light to diagnose cancer to the future of fusion energy.

Some of our speakers have been found through the fantastic STEM Ambassadors network, which has been really easy to use and communicate through. This programme has enabled us to work with a diverse range of speakers from a variety of industry areas.

The response from students who have attended has been brilliantly positive. We now have regular audiences attending of over 100 students and parents. Girls have shared with us that they feel comfortable to be able to ask questions that they do not always have the space to ask them in.

They have also grown in confidence in sharing their enthusiasm for physics and engineering, after realising that others share their interests and passions. We have also seen girls set up work experience through visiting speakers, and go on to study physics and engineering both at A level and university.

I’m really proud of what the Girls in Physics events have been able to achieve, and I hope that as they continue, I can support more girls in developing their confidence, their networks, and with how to follow their passion.

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