Women in STEM | Faculty of Medical Sciences

Women in STEM | Faculty of Medical Sciences

by Newcastle University

For the first time ever, there are more than 1 million women working in core STEM roles across the UK.

To mark this significant milestone we're celebrating some of the incredible women we have in STEMM roles here at Newcastle University.

You can also meet some of our inspirational women working in STEM roles within our Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering.

I'm so fortunate to be surrounded by a group of strong, intelligent and supportive female scientists

Hannah Lowes

Dr Hannah Lowes, Research Associate

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

Its empowering. I am incredibly proud to be a woman in STEMM and I'm so fortunate to be surrounded by a group of strong, intelligent and supportive female scientists in my workplace. It's somehow still not considered the 'norm' and more often than not I feel on the back foot compared to male colleagues, but I think that this feeling of inequality fuels us to challenge these stereotypes. I genuinely believe women in STEMM are awe-inspiring.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

As a woman in STEMM I've often felt overlooked and sometimes completely unseen. However, as a woman in STEMM I've also been seen for the wrong reasons, being sexualised, discriminated against, asked inappropriate personal questions and told I'm 'too attractive to be a scientist'.
It's not all bad though, I've experienced incredible resilience and personal growth through adversity and created bonds with other woman in STEMM from this shared experience.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Remember that you have every right to be here and to be heard and that your ideas are as important as anyone else's. Not only are you here to drive and improve STEMM developments, but you're also here to challenge stereotypes and inspire a future where women in STEMM are not met with inequality.

Which women inspire you?

Mae Jemison - she was the first African American woman to be admitted onto NASA's astronaut training program and the first black woman in space.
'Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.'

What do you do to shape the world in your STEMM role?

It's important to take an active role in inspiring other women to consider a career in the field of STEMM and teaching the younger generations about the inequality we still see nowadays towards women in STEMM. Every year I give a talk at my high school discussing the joys and adversity of being a woman in STEMM and highlighting to all students (and all genders) that scientists or mathematicians or engineers etc. can come in all forms.

 

I'm a research technician working on childhood leukaemia

Nefeli Karataraki

Nefeli Karataraki, Research Technician

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

Research technicians are the core of the lab. They provide their groups with expertise and a huge variety of research skills. I'm a research technician working on childhood leukaemia for almost 5 years now. Although i am mainly devoted to research, one of my main roles as a technician is to provide my knowledge and support to our students from undergraduates, to master's to PhD students.

Being a woman in research has taught that i need to trust my own instincts and to find confidence in my field. To trust my intelligence, my passion and my strength that gives me the ability to move forward in my role and do exactly what feels right for me. And with this i am now able to inspire other women and young girls to move past society's norms and make a difference.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

The role of a research technician is still very underestimated. I constantly face the challenge that i have a fixed amount of intelligence and as a female technician i can't really move forwards. And to see how my female colleagues have to put in double the effort to showcase their ideas and their research findings in panels.
But i also feel privileged to be able to collaborate and work with some amazing women in my field of research. I feel lucky to be surrounded and supported by them and to learn from them and their experiences in research.

Which women inspire you?

Christina Hammock Koch, an amazing NASA astronaut with incredible knowledge and abilities. And Maria Yavropoulou, a pioneer doctor in osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease in Greece.

 

Being a doctor and a researcher has been more of a passion than a job

Louise Robinson

Professor Dame Louise Robinson, NIHR Professor and Senior Investigator, Professor of Primary Care and Ageing

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

For me, being a doctor and a researcher has been more of a passion than a job especially with the opportunities I have had to translate my work into policy and practice.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

Despite being one of the women in the first 50:50 male/female year in medicine at Newcastle, still too few of the first (privileges) and too many of the latter!

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Be strong and true to yourself and maintain your values and integrity even if others around you do not.

Which women inspire you?

There are many both within STEMM and outside but generally those who lead with truth, integrity and vulnerability, qualities that are often missing in the real life leadership examples shown in the media.

 

Exploit every opportunity to achieve gender balance

Janet Wilson (1)

Janet Wilson, Prof of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

In the Arts, equal worth of male and female creative thought has been accepted for some time, but yet differences between male and female artists are accepted.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are also aspects of STEMM - scientific thinking, scientific interest, scientific communication - which are undoubtedly different between men and women. It's marvellous to live in a century where this diversity is being harnessed to the greater advancement of science and technology in the broadest sense.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

The "plight of women" now risks being so often articulated that it is under-rated. On the other hand, we should all try to exploit every opportunity to achieve gender balance. If consideration is being given to nominate people for certain activities, I try to ask the question -is there a woman who might be on this shortlist of possibilities whom we have not yet considered?

What do you do to shape the world in your STEMM role?

Improve the quality of the evidence base for surgery in Ear Nose and Throat disorders through well designed randomised surgical trials. Focus on patient outcome priorities, patient decision-making, and the complex process of symptom reporting in those with medically hard to explain symptoms.
Strive for clarity of communication in both spoken and written media.

Design pragmatic studies which are straightforward to recruit into and accessible for a wide range of patients. Encourage competency-based as opposed to time-based career progression.

 

I am currently one of the COVID-19 responders

Bethany Gollan

Bethany Gollan, PhD Student 

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

I am incredibly proud to be a woman in STEMM. To me, being a woman in STEMM means defying expectation and stereotypes to follow your passion.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

I enjoy communicating my work to others, particularly young people who have the odds stacked against them.

I strongly believe it is our duty to ensure that young people are able to pursue their ambitions in both academic and non-academic careers.

Which women inspire you?

There are so many incredible women who inspired me at various points throughout my life.
Although I am sure that I could provide a list of inspirational famous names, those who truly inspire me are the hardworking women who I have met along the way, all overcoming their own challenges with exceptional resilience and strength.

What do you do to shape the world in your STEMM role?

In my role as a PhD student I have been fortunate to be able to provide information and guidance as a woman in STEMM.

I am currently one of the COVID-19 responders, working in a senior role in the central diagnostic hub. I am exceptionally proud to be able to contribute to the national effort during the pandemic and to be part of such an exceptional team.

In addition to my research I have taught for the Brilliant Club, making University more accessible to those from less privileged backgrounds. I have also helped to organise outreach events, making research more accessible to the public, as well as judging STEMM competitions for school children.

 

Being a woman in STEMM means seeing every day how much women can achieve

Ana Ion

Ana-Madalina Ion, PhD student

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

Being a woman in STEMM means seeing every day how much women can achieve, how much they can thrive, how many times they keep going when they feel they can’t do it anymore. It means seeing that they can be good scientists the same way men can be good scientists. That they can do everything that a man can do. It also means recognizing all the men who are supporting women.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

I want women to stop being assumed as being men when they are successful. I want them to stop being told there is a choice between a family and a career. I want them to apply to STEMM jobs they feel are not 100% qualified for, because men do that more often.

Personally, I would encourage people who read science articles to cover the author’s names and then, after reading, to try to guess if the author was a man or a woman. Did they assume it was a man if the article was good? Did they assume it was a woman if the article contained errors? Or the other way around? They could do this exercise after each article, just to observe themselves and their reactions. And hopefully, after seeing that good articles are being written by women as well as men, stereotypes will fade by themselves.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

I would tell them to follow their dream and go for the career path that they want, even if they might be told it is risky. Having a STEMM job is as risky as having any other job. So, if they like STEMM subjects, they should go for a STEMM job and be sure that they will do fine. Doing something that you are passionate about is the best way to find a good stable job, because passion makes us productive.

Also, they should not get people’s stereotypes get to them: women-scientists (in my case, mitochondria) can have a family and kids, or not have them, depending on their choice. Being a woman in STEMM doesn’t mean one must give up having a family. There are many women in other areas who are single, and there are STEMM women who have families.

Which women inspire you?

My mother, Carmen Angela Ion- aeronautical engineer
My sister, Alina Manuela Ion- computer scientist
My friend, Rawaa Zahid al-Faresi, scientist in Baghdad
Marie Sklodowska Curie
Rita Levi-Montalcini
Smaranda Braescu -first Romanian woman parachoutist and aviator
Ana Aslan, Romanian medic and academician
Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space

 

I want to create a research culture which is supportive and empowering

Amy Reeve

Dr Amy Reeve, Research Fellow and FMS Director of EDI

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

Being a woman in STEMM is a great responsibility. We push forward the boundaries of our knowledge, while standing on the shoulders of the pioneering women who went before us. Being a woman in STEMM is challenging, exciting, rewarding and fulfilling, but it can also be difficult, heartbreaking and frustrating.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

My biggest challenge is the juggling of my family and work lives. Being a STEMM woman is definitely a vocation, our research is what gets us out of bed every day and finding the solutions to the problems or questions we are interested in keeps us up at night. It demands a big commitment, and sometimes this can be a challenge to manage when you have other commitments. However, it is a privilege to be able to get up everyday and love going to work, to be challenged every day, to celebrate in the successes of my team and to work with other amazing STEMM women.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Be bold - sometimes you have to face challenges head on, but don't be afraid to strive for big things, even if there are people who tell you it can't be done.

Be brave - being a STEMM woman is difficult, sometimes you have to face your fears (of rejection often!).

Be kind - We all have to support each other, and in my experience sometimes this does not happen. The STEMM women who have gone before us paved the way, it is important that we help those who are following to have an easier road!

Think Big - Don't be afraid to aim for the stars!

What do you do to shape the world in your STEMM role?

In my research, I aim to uncover the causes of Parkinson's disease with the hope of discovering new pathways for treatments which will prevent the neurodegeneration which causes this disorder.

In my role as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion director, I will help shape the support and inclusion of all staff within the Faculty of Medical Sciences (FMS). I want to create a research culture within both my team and the wider faculty which is supportive and empowering, recognising the contributions of all and removing some of the barriers women have to a long term career in academia. Part of this role includes supporting the Athena SWAN action plan and developing this for renewal, this is an important award for FMS which drives forward our support of women in our faculty.

 

Work hard and surround yourself with strong role models and mentors

Amy Vincent

Dr Amy Vincent, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

It means being resilient, working hard to demonstrate that you're a competitive scientist, and not letting any stereotype or inequalities hold you back from achieving what you set out to do.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

It is often more challenging to gain respect for the work you have done and to make your voice heard. There is also still that stigma around women wanting a family and not being successful due to the time they may sacrifice for this and that just isn't true for male scientists. However, I think one of the advantages is having that network of women who are supporting you.

What role would you like to play in relation to women's rights in your area of expertise?

I've been lucky to have some incredible women in science that have mentored and supported me along the way and as I progress through my career I would like to be that mentor and offer the same support for the next generation of women in STEMM.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Work hard and surround yourself with strong role models and mentors, it is a bumpy road and sometimes you need someone to remind you that after a dip things will get better you just have to keep going.

Which women inspire you?

I had a wonderful tutor Prof Liz Sockett FRS, when I was doing my undergraduate at the University of Nottingham. She is the ultimate role model for women in science, successful, loves her work, an avid networker and an incredible mentor for the next generation of scientists.
I'm also inspired by and get a lot of support from Dr Amy Reeve here at Newcastle Uni. Dr Reeve is a fantastic role model for women in science, talented, successful, one of the most resilient people I've ever met and a terrific mentor.

 

It's important to be an inspiration to the younger generation

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson, Anatomy Technician

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

It's important to be an inspiration to the younger generation, and help young women feel empowered to pursue a career in STEMM. Throughout my career so far I've taken part in many outreach activities, relaying the message of STEMM and inspiring young minds in school settings, and showing that women can work in STEMM. I've always enjoyed working in STEMM and being an inspiration to young women taking an interest in pursuing STEMM subjects.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Go for it! If you have an interest in a subject then stick with it, don't be put off by the opinions of others or thinking that women don't belong in that industry.

 

I want my children to see me as their parent but also as a scientist

Sarah Pickett

Dr Sarah Pickett, Wellcome Career Re-entry Fellow

What does it mean to be a woman in STEMM?

As a mother, I enjoy being able to inspire my children and others to love science and to question the world around them. I want my children to see me as their parent but also as a scientist - not a 'female scientist' - who really enjoys her job and is trying to make a small positive change in the world. But it means a lot of juggling, particularly at the moment as I am trying to balance home educating, entertaining the children and carrying out my research.

What privileges or challenges do you stereotypically face?

I took an 11 year career break from research science to raise my young family and making my return was not an easy journey. It was very difficult to convince people who were hiring post-docs to take a chance on someone who was very rusty in the lab and also wanted a part-time position. There are few funding opportunities available for career re-entry, but financial and academic support from the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research allowed me to make a successful application to Wellcome for a Career Re-entry Fellowship.
My job is very flexible so I can fit my work around family commitments. Funding bodies are becoming more aware of the need to take account for career breaks and part-time working, but research science is competitive in nature - there is always pressure to publish as quickly as possible - that's more difficult for a part-time worker.

What advice would you give to young women going into your industry?

Work on something you love and do it to the best of your ability.
Take training opportunities wherever you can - science is a journey of life-long learning. That's why it's so exciting!
Believe in yourself - don't listen to the inner voice that tells you that you might be an impostor!
Speak to other women in science and ask them about their own career journeys - you will find that there is never just the one route to success!
Find a mentor outside of your research who you feel understands your motivations.
Ask lots of questions.
Take up opportunities that you are offered and seek others!
Tell other people how amazing it is to be a scientist!

What do you do to shape the world in your STEMM role?

I strive to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying phenotypic diversity in mitochondrial disease.

 

Meet some of our inspirational women working in STEM roles within our Faculty of Science, Agriculture & Engineering.

 Learn more about our Faculty of Medical Sciences