Last night I was a member of a panel discussing opportunities for young women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based industries.
The event was part of a fabulous range of events for both students and parents organized by Blackburn college to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship week.
The event was designed to inspire, inform and educate, with the panel members including myself, talking about our career journeys and answering questions.
It was a diverse audience of mainly University students, male and female, white and ethnic and they were an attentive and inquisitive crowd.
My fellow panel members and I had all taken different routes to success, one via a degree, one via Masters and a Doctorate, one straight into work at age 16 and myself setting up a business straight from college. We all came from very different backgrounds but we all had one thing in common; we had all started a Saturday job at age 13 and worked throughout our education after school and at weekends. In other words we all had work experience before we left education.
The other things we all had in common were that we recognized that even at a young age, we had been good communicators and that we had learned relatively early in our careers to ask for help.
These common traits had supported us through interesting careers, enabled all of us to combine family and work and ultimately resulted in us working at sufficiently senior levels for us to be seen as influencers and role models.
What key messages did we deliver to our audience of young people about the opportunities available in STEM?
Firstly that Science is not just for geeks, Technology is not just computer programming, Engineering is not greasy overalls and Maths is not dry and boring.
We explained how these industries underpin every item that is designed, every communication ever sent, every thing that is ever manufactured and every problem that ever needs solving, from the latest mobile gadget to feeding the world’s growing population. We explained that these industries are creative, exciting, help you travel the world, let you meet fascinating people and pay well. We explained that there are massive skills gaps looming in the UK in STEM industries and that we are placed bottom out of 28 European countries for the number of women in engineering.
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