Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and as a technology company with a female CEO and Founder in Sarah Fatchett, we wanted to touch on the many ways in which the landscape has changed for women and girls in STEM. International days are global opportunities for the world to listen, understand, and educate, in the hopes that real change (no matter how small) can follow. As a company, we consider ourselves to “be brave and bold,” eager to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Fatchett and challenge the imbalances we see in the world.
Records reveal what we already know, which is that women are severely underrepresented in STEM fields, which unfortunately means that they are published less, paid less, and struggle to progress as far in their careers. This is due to a multitude of reasons, such as obligations within the home or a lack of support in pursuing these subjects during formative years. The UN report that today, only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields of study are women, but as the choices for women have expanded, so have these numbers, and they will continue to rise.
Celebrating Women and Girls in Science
To thrive in any environment, regardless of their gender, people need to see themselves positively represented in that field. Not just as support, but as creators, innovators, and leaders, which is unquestionably harder to do with little reference material. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we decided to share stories from the team of instances where parents, siblings, or guardians have enthusiastically encouraged the women in their lives to pursue STEM subjects and combat the stigma head-on. It’s especially important for the men in the world to actively shoulder the bulk of this support, as they make up the majority of voices within this field, which is why we spoke to men within the business who do exactly that!
Chris Ackerman, our Associate Director of eProcure, is responsible for managing the operations of the call handling services for our 24/7 mental health booking line, as well as the procurement of non-emergency patient transport for the NHS. Having worked alongside Sarah Fatchett over 12 years ago at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Chris has had the opportunity to experience her incredible journey to female Founder and CEO, all from the front seat. He is also well-versed in supporting powerful, determined, and intelligent women outside of 365 Response, such as his wife:
“My wife was a biomedical scientist for over 25 years, working in Cytology (screening for cervical cancer). Unfortunately, she was made redundant from the NHS, but after only 6 months off she was back at the NHS and working on the MDT (Multi Discipline Team) Cancer Team!”
Brendan Fatchett, Chief Commercial Officer, shared how supportive he is of his daughter Maisie and her choices regarding education and careers, as well as his thoughts on how opportunities for women have changed over the years:
“When I was young not many women did STEM subjects, it was a male domain. Things have started to change but maybe not nearly quickly enough. As a father to an intelligent, ambitious and hardworking 17-year-old daughter, I have worked hard to ensure that a full range of opportunities present themselves in the STEM subjects.”
Despite having confidence in her decision to study a STEM subject, Maisie still had to further convince her teachers of her abilities.
“We had to make the case for her school to allow her to do Further Maths at A level; this despite getting a grade 9 (A**) in GCSE – beating all her male counterparts in the process. It is not a given that girls get these opportunities – and we are working hard to open all opportunities for her as she looks towards University and working life.”
Despite the initial pushback, Brendan is looking towards the future with bright and hopeful eyes, with the knowledge that his daughter can accomplish anything she puts her mind to:
“We often joke about Maisie working for NASA or going to the USA to study Maths at a post-graduate level; it is important that she is not limited by societal prejudices. Why shouldn’t she be an astronaut or a scientist? I am a passionate believer that you should be judged by your talent, not your sex. Hopefully, she will be part of another generation of powerful, talented women who continue to knock down barriers like her mum, Sarah (as CEO, ambulance Trust Director and passionate women’s advocate) and her grandma (Lecturer, author, Non-Executive Director and mentor). She knows I will do all I can to help her fulfil her potential.”
Sarah regularly tries to remind us to give the people around us a step-up wherever possible and to realise when balance needs to be restored. This is why she’s implementing a programme within the Board of Directors that will aim to propel talented women into higher positions within the company.
The lack of women within the world of STEM is a topic we touch on within our ‘Day in the Life of Melissa Segula.’ Mel is a talented Senior Software Developer at 365 Response with over 12 years of experience within the tech industry, but software development wasn’t the career she initially had in mind because the choice had never been presented to her:
“I’ve met a lot of men throughout the years that knew they wanted to get into computing or development from a young age. They would say they had an interest in the industry from the age of 10 or 12 for example, or that their parents had bought them a computer in preparation for that. Growing up, I wasn’t aware of the software development world at all, so it’s been important for me to embrace as much knowledge as I can, and work in a variety of environments. There has been a positive change in representation in more recent years, but I’ve worked for seven companies now, and I’ve been the only female in more than half of them. That desperately needs to change.”
Mel has a daughter of her own now, who will hopefully navigate a world that embraces her varied talents without hesitation:
“My daughter is 12 years old, and she has recently joined an after-school club called Geeks Room where they have a wide range of activities. She has the option to learn how to code, complete repairs and run diagnostics on hardware, play video games, and even do 3D Design. She’s mostly interested in gaming currently, but I’m hoping she’ll take an interest in everything else the longer she’s exposed to the other classes…”
What can I do?
Ask yourself, in what ways am I propelling the women and girls in my life towards the many options available to them? Encourage versatility and exploration, and give them the freedom to discover what excites them. The world is full of things yet to be discovered, and we can’t let the boys have all the fun, now can we? Use the #WomeninScience hashtag to share your stories, initiatives, and comments on how you choose to celebrate women and girls in science today and every day.