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UEA marks International day of Women and Girls in science

To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, female scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) are highlighting progress, celebrating success and sharing their experiences of working in science. 

The event is organised by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness and increase female participation in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Liz Rix, Analytical Facilities Manager who won the award for small and medium-sized Enterprise Collaboration at UEA’s Innovation and Impact Awards last week, spoke of how far scientific disciplines have come: “When I first started work as a trainee technician in the School of Biology at UEA, 40 years ago, there were only three other female technicians in the department.

“Luckily things have moved on considerably now and the technicians’ gender distribution across UEA’s Science Faculty, it is more or less evenly split, and that applies right across the grading structure too. It is great to see more and more women interested in science.”

Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre and Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at UEA, who was a single mum for a number of years, said: “Handling a demanding career as a single parent was not always easy, but I have been surprised how often people went out of their way to help out. Be it for fixing meeting dates that met my very tight schedule or for helping with overnight babysitting or sick child care, I’ve had lots of help.

“Being a single mother with a career made me feel fulfilled, and I always thought it was both good for me and good for my child.”

Georgina Bennett, Lecturer in the Physical Geography of Natural Hazards at UEA, explains the unique skills women bring to teaching science: “I believe that women are natural mentors and have a lot to offer to students in terms of support and inspiration. I find this is one of the parts of my job I enjoy the most.”

UEA supports the annual Women of the Future event organised by the John Innes Centre to inspire the next generation of female STEM professionals, is a partner at the Norwich Science Festival, where many female scientists exhibit their work, and has a ResNet group which aims to raise awareness of the importance of equality in the workplace.

Another initiative which aims to increase female participation in scientific disciplines is the Youth STEM Award, of which UEA is a supporting partner.

“Working in science has allowed me to acquire new skills, meet amazing people and be involved in some fascinating research projects.” said Liz Rix.

“If you have an idea then tell everyone who stands still long enough to listen, eventually the right person will hear you and help you take it forward."