Women account for just 13% of the UK's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce.
Lots of work is being done to address this by encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects.
But there is another way.
Increasing numbers of women are switching to STEM after graduating. After i finished university in 2015 with a history and philosophy degree, I never imagined I'd be venturing into the world of STEM.
Despite always enjoying maths and science, I decided to pursue humanities subjects in further education.
During my time at Lancaster University I had a job in the campus recruitment team but coming back home to Cumbria I realised a career in HR and recruitment wasn’t for me so I decided to do some searching.
I came across the Sellafield Ltd Quality Degree Apprenticeship Scheme. As someone who wants things to be correct, always has a to-do list, is forever trying ‘fix’ things, quality seemed the right calling at last.
Alongside working in quality, I really enjoy my academic course. Although it was daunting to start another degree, it is very rewarding to think I will have a plant engineering degree in 2 years’ time. As someone who hadn’t done maths since GCSE, passing that module was an achievement in itself!
It is challenging balancing a full-time job, a degree and extracurricular activities (plus trying, and mainly failing, to have a social life).
However, it is worthwhile, and I believe the skills gained through my apprenticeship will help prepare me for my future career.
I’m sure there will be times when I’m as busy (or as stressed) as I was when I had 2 assignment deadlines and a presentation in one day.
Being enrolled on this apprenticeship has opened doors that I didn’t even know existed and I am proud to be involved in a range of institutes, such as the NI YGN (Nuclear Institute Young Generation Network), WiN (Women in Nuclear) Cumbria and STEM.
I want to help create opportunities for mentoring and coaching to support young people in reaching their full potential in their careers and being involved in these activities gives me the chance do this.
My apprenticeship cohort is made up of roughly the same number of males and females. I think STEM events and ambassadors going into schools has had a huge impact on this by showing people that these subjects are for everyone.
Now I get involved in all kinds of STEM events. I’ve judged core values at a Robot Lego League competition and used nerf guns to show primary school children about shielding from radiation.
Being involved in these events is very important to me as we didn’t have many STEM ambassadors coming to my school, and looking back, I would have appreciated someone telling my younger self to think about a career in STEM and to tell me about the exciting opportunities that it would offer.
I’m sure that through STEM volunteering, ambassadors can continue encouraging young people and entice them into a career, even if it is using nerf guns!
My top tips for getting involved in STEM
- Choosing just one STEM subject at A-Level can give you lots of opportunities. It will also ensure you meet criteria when applying for certain courses/jobs
- Be proactive and volunteer. Whether it’s going into schools or helping with academic institutes, this will help you develop your organising and presenting skills. It’s also great for networking with STEM professionals
- Be confident in your ability - you can achieve whatever goals you set yourself!