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Celebrating Women in Chemistry

We invited alumni to return to the Department of Chemistry for a special alumni event marking the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The event was held in support of the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February. This day was created to help achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Morning session

The event began with session just for our alumni to hear from a range of speakers about their careers and issues they have faced as women in science.

Talking with an openness and candour that was much appreciated by attendees, eight women discussed both positives - like the female scientists who inspired them - and challenges, such as those of combining careers and parenthood. 

Many of our speakers mentioned experiencing imposter syndrome, including when they were returning to work after a career break. They revealed how they had arrived in their chosen fields (which ranged from academic research and teaching to law and scientific publishing); how they had achieved their current positions, and how mentoring and leadership programmes had helped them and could help others.

And to close the morning, a current student whose path to this department was an unconventional one, talked about how why she is so motivated to support outreach activities that can help attract both girls and boys into science. As one listener said on hearing her, "She really blew us away."

Afternoon session 

A panel of speakers from the morning, alongside alumni and current postgrads and postdocs, took part in a 'Question Time'-style debate. Topics for discussion included:

  • do women-only posts/prizes advance or hold back the serious integration of women in science?
  • how do we handle inappropriate comments and still show respect?
  • how do we change recruitment and funding in academia to provide a level playing field?¬†
  • does job sharing have a role in an academic research setting?

We closed with tea and networking opportunities and many attendees lingered for some time, enjoying some very lively conversations.

This was the first time we have run an alumni event of this type. But given the amount of highly positive feedback we've received, we are now considering how best to follow it up.

Watch this space for more information!