Women of Science engages people about the lives of female scientists.

With Women of Science, PhD student Rhys Archer wants to engage people about the lives of female scientists. Every week, a female scientist will be presented “to show them as relatable people, to give young people some real attainable role models, to truly show how diverse and how multidisciplinary the sciences is”.

rhys-archer-sqAs a PhD student in Materials Science at The University of Manchester, I had done quite a lot of science outreach within schools before I took part in the science engagement platform I’m an Engineer Get me Out of Here, so when I ended up winning the £500 prize winnings, I had a good idea of the issues I wanted to try and address.

I used the money to start my own campaign, Women of Science, sharing stories of women in STEM. The premise of the idea is based on Humans of New York – simple portrait photos, with short quotes about the person’s life. I find this method so engaging, personally, but I have also been following the impact of this method and its various sister campaigns – and it has been phenomenal.

My main aim with Women of Science is to engage people about the lives of female scientists – to show them as relatable people, to give young people some real attainable role models, to truly show how diverse and how multidisciplinary the sciences is – and to show that tell a scientist story which isn’t just a fact file of qualifications and day to day duties. They might like fashion, they might like football, they might enjoy cooking. They may be confident and love their job, or they may have doubts and insecurity. Science may not (and probably isn’t) the be all and end all of their existence, they are not geniuses – they are regular people, who do science, and happen to be female. This is what I wanted to showcase through a website, social media sites, and leaflets in the form of collectable postcards to send to schools. Featuring one woman a week, and exploring her life and interests through 3 simple photographs and quotes, with a blog post attached with  more information – making female scientist role models truly attainable, and trying to break any of the stereotypes that are out there.

Although showcasing the stories of these women to young females interested in science is my main aim through Women of Science, I am also using the platform to educate about the issues around diversity in the sciences, and to present research in the form of clear infographics. I also hope to be able to boost the recognition of the women I speak to – to promote their own blogs and social media sites, to promote their research papers and published work, and to also create a resource not just for young people, but for all women working in the sciences.

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So far the prize funds have been spent on setting up the website, purchasing interview equipment, and the rest will go on postcards business cards and stickers for events. When I put the call out in March for women to be involved – I got a staggering 40 women from all across the UK and EU wanting to be involved – passionately wanting to be involved! That’s 40 weeks worth of stories! I am really humbled to have some really fantastic women doing some really exciting things who have offered not just their time but also their support and encouragement to me and this campaign – to me this is how we help gender diversity in STEM, by working with and supporting each other and initiatives like this one. The website will continue to be updated week on week as well as the social media streams. I will use the blog part of the website to showcase my own story as a women/communicator/human in STEM, and I will send an annual round of postcards to schools.

And that’s not it! I have a habit of dreaming big – and I want to push this campaign to be something different, something new. I have ideas for a photography exhibition type event with talks on women of science, talks to schools, creating a installation wall of anecdotes and advice from women of science at schools and universities, and perhaps one day a magazine, showcasing wonderful ordinary women in stem, telling their stories, sharing their research, giving them all a voice, discussing the most recent research on the area.

I truly believe that campaigns like this one can help support and welcome young women into the field of STEM, but none of this would be possible without the support of professionals with STEM that are passionate about gender equality. If you are interested in being a part of this campaign, either as a photo story, guest blogger or in another capacity you think would be useful, or if you have any feedback or can signpost the campaign to any relevant data or research, email stories@womenofsci.com.

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