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Today is the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day established by the United Nations General Assembly to highlight the significant gender gap that remains at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world.
Even though women have made tremendous progresses towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still underrepresented in these fields. At Churchill College we are continuously working towards providing a strong and supportive community for women, both in our admissions work and once women arrive in the College.
Churchill's Master, Professor Dame Athene Donald reflects on the importance of this day:
"As we celebrate the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, it is worth reflecting why such a day is needed. Basically, it is because there aren’t enough women entering the STEM professions or studying the STEM subjects. Churchill College was founded as a College with a heavy STEM emphasis. It was also the first College founded to admit men that voted to admit women, with the first women entering the College in 1972. However, despite our pioneering spirit in terms of admitting women, we still find that the percentage of women we admit is lower than we would like because of the low numbers of girls who study subjects like Physics at A Level. Unfortunately, the evidence is that at school too many girls are put off doing the STEM subjects for a whole variety of reasons, although not necessarily ones I believe in myself! As a College we want to encourage girls to stay with the sciences – and also to consider applying to Churchill.
I have been asking senior women scientists who come to the College, why girls should study science, and these short videos showcase their answers. Each of them demonstrates the joy they personally have had from pursuing science in their careers and the excitement the study of science provided for them. I myself also strongly believe that diversity in science (and related professions) can only lead to better outcomes for all: this is as true when it comes to running a new engineering project as it is in the health of business leadership, where the evidence of the benefits of a diverse team are by now well documented. Diversity matters. At Churchill, I believe we have a strong, welcoming and supportive environment in which everyone can thrive. I hope these videos will inspire more girls to consider the STEM subjects in general so that future generations can benefit from such diversity in the scientific and technological workforce."
The College's Senior Tutor, Richard Partington also emphasises the importance given to fostering a supportive environment for women at Churchill, particularly in the sciences:
"For Churchill College, UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science has particular resonance. This College was founded to foster the study of science, technology, maths and engineering, and having (as ever) our College motto ‘forward’ in mind, we are at this time especially focused upon the need to encourage girls to pursue science at school and college in much greater numbers, with a view to bringing more women into the study of STEM subjects at university – as is only right, given female under-representation in post-18 science education and, indeed, in most science-based professions.
Not only are we determined to increase the proportion of our own STEM students who are women, we are resolute in our desire to continue to support and encourage them in exemplary fashion when they are with us. Our women students achieve completely outstanding results in their time with us, but we need more of them!
So, if you are a young woman thinking about pursuing a STEM subject at university, and if you are among the most able and hard-working students in your school and college, please come and visit us! Open day information is available online; but you can visit any time by prior arrangement. As our website says: ‘Churchill College: Be Part of It.’