A bid to STEM the career tide

Pupils from Penicuik and Newbattle High Schools are given an insight into STEM careers
Pupils from Penicuik and Newbattle High Schools are given an insight into STEM careers

More than 50 per cent of students who graduate from a subject related to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are female, but women only make up 14.4 per cent of the STEM workforce.

Meanwhile, a study published in 2015 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found girls still lack the confidence to pursue high-paid careers in science and technology, despite their school results being as good as – or better than – boys’ results. This “leaking pipe” is a huge issue and “plugging” it has untold benefits to society through a more diverse, equal and creative workforce.

To mark International Women’s Day, we held an event to inspire young women in Midlothian to follow a career in STEM at a time in their lives when their choices seem both limitless and extremely restricted.

More than 20 young women from Newbattle and Penicuik High Schools came to Edinburgh Technopole to hear from four women with highly successful, but widely varied, careers in STEM occupations. They shared how they got to where they are, why they feel their jobs are important and what tips they had to pass on to the next generation.

The pupils heard about careers in stem cell research, healthcare diagnostics, front end behaviour of electronic chips and from a researcher in viruses turned scientific communicator.

Advice which stood out was the importance of making your own opportunities and building up a network of contacts which can help you throughout your career.

The speakers also challenged perceptions about how to become successful in science, particularly that often learning whilst working can be more helpful than pursuing a purely academic route.

With a number of scientific companies already in Midlothian, we hope the event uncovered some of the lesser known areas of STEM, shed light on the varied career paths in the industry and inspired some of the young women to follow their talents into a career in STEM.

Only time will tell.