High School female students performing a science experiment

The Master, Professor Dame Athene Donald appeared on this morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Today programme calling for major changes to the UK education system and for more to be done to counter gender stereotyping which may put women off going into science.

Ahead of her inaugural address as the new president of the British Science Association, Professor Donald has called for major reforms to education for 16–18 year olds to tackle damaging arts-science divide.

Writing in The Conversation, Professor Donald has called for politicians to reconsider the structure of our post-16 education:

“England and Wales are unlike almost all other developed countries in our early specialisation. This leads to a damaging divide between arts and science.”

In a press release Professor Donald also addressed the damaging consequences of gender stereotyping from an early age:

“We need to change the way we think about boys and girls and what’s appropriate for them from a very early age. Does the choice of toys matter? I believe it does. We introduce social constructs by stereotyping what toys boys and girls receive from the earliest age. Girls toys are typically liable to lead to passivity — combing the hair of Barbie, for instance — not building, imagining or being creative with Lego or Meccano.”

In her Radio 4 interview, Professor Donald also emphasised the need for schools to ensure that both sexes had equal opportunities when it came to work experience placements to ensure girls and boys were not automatically divided between gender stereotyped vocations.

Professor Dame Athene Donald is taking over from Sir Paul Nurse as president of the BSA this month. She will deliver her presidential address at the British Science Festival, organised by the Association, which takes place at the University of Bradford on 10th September.

Listen to the interview

Read Athene’s article on Education Reform

Read the Guardian article