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17 Nov | Diversity & Inclusion | Women in Science

Royal Society’s 5th Annual Diversity Conference

Exploring ways to remove barriers to participation in STEMM education. This year’s focus was on confidence and competence.

This year the EGC attended the Royal Society’s 5th Annual Diversity Conference exploring ways to remove barriers to participation in STEMM education. The conference focussed on CONFIDENCE and COMPETENCE.

Keynote speaker Sarah-Jane Leslie, Class of 1943, Professor of Philosophy, Vice Dean for Faculty Development, Director of the Program in Linguistics, and Founding Director of the Program in Cognitive Science at Princeton University, gave a fascinating talk about how the language young children hear shapes their perception of social groups, and how this relates to stereotyping and prejudice. She spoke about ‘the beam’, or rather the myth of natural brilliance over hard work, and how using this type of terminology can have a detrimental effect on girls' education. For example, subjects widely perceived to require natural aptitude and a level of ‘genius’ are fields most often under-represented by women.

This was followed by two engaging panel presentations and discussions around ways to influence inclusion of not just girls in STEMM but all disadvantaged groups.

Rosamund McNeil (Head of Education and Equalities, National Union of Teachers) spoke about the limitations of the current measuring systems and policies of the UK's state schools. Her talk drew attention to ways in which they inadvertently foster non-inclusive environments, putting schools in competition, and ultimately measuring poverty rather than success. This creates larger barriers for disadvantaged students.

Alice Pinney (a member of the Girl-Guiding’s national youth panel, and youngest presenter of the day at just 17 years old!) spoke broadly about the stereotypes and challenges young girls face every day from the way toys are gendered to the lack of spaces in which girls are allowed to just be themselves. She also spoke about the importance of strong and visible role models, citing the impact of organisations like the Girl Guides, referencing her own positive experiences.

The closing remarks were made by Professor Uta Frith DBE FBA FMedSci FRS ,Chair of the The Royal Society Diversity Committee. Uta is an advocate for the advancement of women in science and has founded support networks for female scientists.

It was a great opportunity to listen to such inspiring speakers so passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion in education. We left the day on a high note, reflecting on the work that the EGC has done since our launch in March. We’re on the right track, but there is still a lot more to be done…