WISE Young Women's Board member Narmeen Rehman on the WISE Celebration of Talented Women in Wales Conference
25 April 2017
There are a few strange things about today: firstly, we’re in Wales, in a packed out parliamentary building (the Senedd) to discuss women in STEM. Secondly, the sun is shining. Reminder: we’re in Wales and it is March. Thirdly, the event will be marked by a royal visit from WISE’s patron HRH Princess Anne. Wales may have the lowest numbers of girls studying A-Level physics in the UK, but they are trying to do something to change it.
WISE CEO Helen Wollaston opened the event and Welsh Science Minister Julie James echoed her enthusiasm. James cemented the governmental support in the announcement of an acceptance of all 33 recommendations from the Talented Women for a Successful Wales report.
Wales is launching some ambitious initiatives to promote and retain women in STEM. The issues that will need to be addressed are two-fold; early intervention in schools and support for interrupted careers. Of the devolved nations, Wales has the highest number of science teachers leaving the profession- thanks, in large part, to overwhelming workloads and higher financial incentives on offer in England. The anticipated plans include gender balanced policies at every career stage (classroom to board room), encouraging a flexible working HR policy across Wales and training in gender inclusive teaching methods as demonstrated by the Institute of Physics Stimulating Physics Network. Wales are making flexible working a reality, offering 30 hours free childcare to parents of 3-4 year olds for 48 weeks of the year- the most generous childcare offer in the UK.
WISE’s ‘People Like Me’ and ’10 Steps’ initiatives and ‘Soapbox Science’ were highlighted as valuable resources to engage with school pupils, which will hopefully build more diverse industries. The discussion covered a range of ideas to promote gender balance e.g. requesting gender balanced panels/speakers, calling out ‘negative behaviour’, using inclusive language, sharing good practice and being ‘conscious’ of bias, whether it’s creating promotional material or advocating non-traditional careers or toys.
There was an inspiring collection of speakers, including representatives from academia to business. The dynamic duo Hillary Lappin-Scott and Karen Holford particularly energised the room and called for a ‘month celebration of women in STEM’. The highlight of the day was the arrival of HRH the Princess Royal. The room, sat in stunned silence throughout her engaging speech. Princess Anne called for the sustainability of women in STEM, and motivated the audience to write a series of pledges for ‘#STEMWales’. So what will you pledge to ‘be bold for change’ and drive our WISE campaign?