My female STEM role models – Ada Lovelace Day 2014

I’ve been thinking about my own female STEM role models as it’s Ada Lovelace Day. It’s not a pretty story for me though…

The person I credit most highly with inspiring me to take physics further is my high school physics teacher. My male high school physics teacher. I had a male maths teacher at school too. For A levels I had a male physics teacher but, oooh a female maths teacher! I think, I can’t really recall more than a female outfit and a vague haircut. It’s possible these are invented memories too, made after a friend mentioned we had a female maths teacher a few years ago.

Ok, let’s keep going. University. Most of the lecturers I remember were male, but there was one female lecturer and I remember her clearly. Given my ability to forget people in their entirety, remembering someone’s name is high praise. I also remember how impressive it was, to me, to see a female theoretical physicist. This probably says a lot about the lack of other role models I’d encountered up to now.

I don’t do much better thinking further back to childhood. I can only think of Johnny Ball.

It looks quite sad written down. Luckily, I’m not quite finished. Where I’ve always had strong female support is amongst my classmates and contemporaries. I was in a very small A level physics class, but there were three female students (out of 6 or 7).

University was not a place were I felt I was underrepresented in term of gender. Most of my lecturers were men, but there were women everywhere around the department. My friends were female. Women were not absent.

Finally, we get to the PhD days. Here there were lots of amazing women doing PhDs and working as post docs. The world of particle physics seemed, to me, to be remarkably not male dominated. It might be different at other experiments or from another persons viewpoint.

I hope my experience, of there being many younger women in STEM, has translated to there now being more senior women in role model STEM career positions, but I don’t know. It would be interesting to find out.

I try and do my own bit by representing women in physics in my own school, and I big up maths skills whenever I get the opportunity 😉

It would be nice to think I might ever inspire anyone to take up a STEM path beyond school. Or maybe I should hope to be such a common sight that I fade into the vague memories of my students.






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