To celebrate International Women's Week, some of the amazing GUR women have been talking about what they think of the rising number of women involved in rocketry, and similar industries, and their experiences as women in STEM. Working and studying within a male-dominated industry can be difficult, especially when you lack a sense of community and a support system. At GU Rocketry we recognise the gender imbalance within our team, and while we strive to fix it, we still have a long way to go in terms of inclusion and gender equality.
As a female in STEM, I am particularly passionate about encouraging future women into engineering and STEM subjects. I would love to see more women involved in technical roles and challenging the gender gap in societies and male-dominated engineering disciplines. - Ellie Thomson
Though numbers are rising, there is still a considerable difference in the numbers of men and women pursuing or being involved in STEM subjects or industries. In February 2022, Imperial College London reported that, when looking at scientific authors, the gender split was 73% male to 23% female across 83 countries and 13 disciplines. This creates a deficit in role models for women, so we must strive to become our own role models and motivate both ourselves and our peers.
We try to encourage young girls to pursue STEM subjects that interest them, or that they are passionate about, as the issue with women in STEM begins in schools if young girls are discouraged from pursuing subjects typically seen as male-dominated. We run outreach days with local schools, and show the next generation that science isn't just a boy's game or a girl's game, it is for everyone.
A Woman in STEM, what a title. What a coveted position, one of prestige and power. Or is it? Nurtured by an inquisitive mind, finding yourself in STEM feels like a dream. You are so powerful and part of something so much larger than yourself. A plethora of experiences have been granted to you. You were such a wonderful and novel thing. And it is to be. You know it is. But the sideway glances, blatant ignoring during classes and labs, or the shock on peoples’ faces when you say something ‘smart’ shadows you wherever you go. Not being, or looking, or acting, like a typical STEM worker is both a blessing and a curse. New opportunities flourish before you but fighting a stigma from strangers, teachers and colleagues strain you. Let us break this dichotomy. Let us be learners, researchers, builders and pioneers of our own. Let us carry the weight of history and the future together. Let us not have the burden on our own. Take solace with your friends around you. Take solace in your passion for your subject. You are carving the path forward and you are doing it so well. - Sophie Calderwood
The increase in women in STEM has been such an encouragement over the past years. Seeing more girls unashamed of their skills and passions in stereotypically male fields has been inspirational and reassuring. It allows me to have mentors in industry that have similar interests and stories to me as well as creating a supportive community of women that pushes each member to be their best self. - Isla Davies
Historically, women have sporadically been involved in scientific fields, but most who were have not done so quietly. So many contributions to not only our everyday life but also to some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in history can be attributed to women.
Katherine Johnson was hired by NASA as a 'computer', she manually carried out complex calculations, supporting engineers. Often the only woman in the room, she calculated the trajectory of America's first space trip in 1961 and later did the same in 1969 for the first landing on the moon.
Marie Curie is extremely well-known for her research in radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only woman ever to win twice. She developed the theory of radioactivity, created techniques to isolate radioactive isotopes, and built mobile radiography units (petites Curies) to provide X-ray services to field hospitals during the First World War.
Hedy Lamarr was a movie star by day, inventor by night. She worked with George Antheil after the Second World War to develop a spread-spectrum radio, allowing radio signals to 'hop' between different frequencies and make messages harder to decode. the technology was poorly understood at the time, but she pioneered the technology that today is used as a basis for WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems.
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in America to receive an MD when she graduated from New York's Geneva Medical College in 1849. She spent her life championing medical education for women and careers for women in medicine. She established the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857 and published several books on the topic, including Medicine as a Profession for Women in 1860, and Address on the Medical Education of Women in 1864.
Throughout my academic career, I have typically been the only girl in my classes or one of three girls. I was even told that I would maybe be better off studying something more equipped for me like languages. I was supported by most of my teachers and my parents to pursue Engineering and I am very lucky to have had and that they encouraged me to experience as many different activities as possible. Otherwise, if my options would have been dictated just by my school I may have ended up somewhere completely different. Moving to uni can be quite daunting and societies are a great way to meet new people. Joining GU Rocketry for me was an opportunity to meet like-minded people and I did, and have made life long friends from the society. There is still quite an imbalance between female and male members but the gap is closing and we do a lot of outreach work to encourage and show the younger generation any career field is for you and it helps for young girls to see us be part of GU Rocketry and studying a STEM degree that it’s not impossible for them to do it. I just hope that the opportunities present to younger generations are equal regardless of your gender. - Catarina Vaughan
On a more personal note, I may not be one of these women involved in a STEM subject or industry, but I know and love many who are and they are a huge inspiration to me every day. I see the challenges they face and how they overcome them, I see how hard they work and I see the support system they have created for and amongst themselves and I see how and when they should be appreciated more by their male counterparts. This International Women's Week take the time to think about the women you know and the impact they have had on your life, and how you might be able to learn from them going forward. There is a quote from the author of one of my favourite books of all time that I will leave you with, as it is particularly apt at this time of year:
"Nothing is impossible for a determined woman." - Louisa May Alcott