Hannah Houston, 4th year chemistry student at the University of Strathclyde Edinburgh, was awarded with the Student Network Woman Student of the Year Award and Dominique Green a PhD Student in Data Science, at the University of Edinburgh won the Student Network Student-Institution partnership Award. Here they talk about their experiences as women in STEM and the public engagement activities they are involved in.

Dominique Green, PhD Student University of Edinburgh

Student-Institution Partnership Award Winner

What inspired you to pursue a STEM career?

To be honest, my pursuit of STEM was not intentional; I never expected to be doing what I am now. My studies are centred on the M (maths). I have always done well in maths. I enjoyed the complexity of statistics. As I learned more about maths and the possibility of its uses, I was able to apply it to answer complex social issues as I do currently with my PhD.What didn’t you expect from being a woman in STEM?I don’t think I expected the vast amount of occupations that are possible when one pursues a STEM career. In working with the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Group (ISG), I have learned how wide-ranging these types of positions are. I think that’s why it becomes so important to educate young women (especially women of colour) about the diverse opportunities available in STEM fields.

Tell us a bit about how you support women in STEM?

In my work with ISG, I’ve co-developed an equality and diversity initiative called the PlayFair Steps. The initiative is a series of events and workshops, and trainings that aim to help people recognise a wide variety of equality and diversity issues, but also how we might apply best practices to our own workplace. In addition, I have drafted and implemented a gender equality plan that addresses key areas in which we can improve the experience of women working in ISG, a large technology employer. Some of those key areas include hiring women returners who return to work after a career break, advertising open positions on a number of different platforms, and enhanced reporting of pay by gender and grade. We have also clarified policies on flexible working. Broadly, my work with ISG takes a data-driven approach to ensure we have the most inclusive workplace possible that celebrates all of our staff.

What is the biggest reward of doing this work?

I really get to work with some amazing people. I co-developed this programme with Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching, and Web Services in ISG & Assistant Principal of Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh. Over the years, I have learned so much from Melissa that I cannot adequately summarise in a few sentences. All of the work Melissa and I do are for the current (and future) staff of ISG. The biggest reward is being stopped or emailed by staff members who appreciated us having an event centred on a topic of interest and providing suggestions that would improve our work. One of the key themes of the PlayFair Steps is staff engagement. They have engaged with PlayFair Steps and embraced me (as a PhD Intern) and that has substantially improved all of our efforts.What is the most interest thing about your role/studies?In both my studies and in my work, I get to use data to address really complex and diverse issues. To me, that’s really interesting. With the analysis of data, we can develop new ways to tackle long standing issues.

What are your top three tips to others looking to inspire women?

I think there’s just one tip here that I consider to be most important in our efforts to enhance women participation in STEM: Be intersectional in your approach to equality and diversity. Women are a heterogeneous group of people who experience nearly every issue differently.

If you could meet any woman scientist, alive or dead, who would you pick and why?

This is such a great question! I would love to have met Mamie Phillips Clark. She, like me, applied data in the application of important social questions. As a black woman from the American south, her work resonates with me because it specifically looked at self-consciousness in black children. She assessed the relationship between racial school segregation and the feeling of inferiority amongst black children about being black. Her work was influential in the Brown vs. the Board of Education court case that resulted racial segregation of schools being deemed unconstitutional in the United States. How awesome was she?!

Hannah Houston, MEng Mechanical Engineering University of Strathclyde

Winner of the Woman Student of the Year Award

What inspired you to pursue a STEM career?

I was inspired to pursue a career in STEM by the engineering I was exposed to while going on holidays. I loved travelling on planes and boats and I was always very interested in how these worked. When I discovered this could be something I could study at university, I jumped at the chance!

What didn’t you expect from being a woman in STEM?

I knew coming into a STEM career that I would be in the one of the minority genders. What I did not expect, was that there would already be an amazing supportive network of women for me to join at university.

Tell us a bit about how you support women in STEM?

I am a part of the Equate society at Strathclyde.  To support other women here at Strathclyde, we host networking events to put students in touch with the industry they would like to be in. We also host social events to connect students with one another.

What is the biggest reward of doing this work?

I am so proud to be able to now mentor other women who are just beginning university. I know first hand how difficult it can be to find internships at university as well as maintaining grades and being sociable! Being able to help others where I struggled is something I always aspired to be able to do.

What is the most interest thing about your role/studies?

The most interesting thing for me is to be able to apply what I study to my role. For example, The Wind Energy Project that I run with FemEng sees students apply their knowledge as engineers to complete a challenge. This encourages students to ‘see the bigger picture’ of engineering and to build bridges between engineering and business. This is really important to me as I believe it fills the gaps in between university and industry.

What was your experience at the Student Conference this year?

The conference was so empowering. It is always a joy for me to be surrounded by many other like-minded women who I can learn from. The workshops were helpful, providing lots of hints and tips for internships, and it was helpful to be able to speak to recruiters directly. The panel discussion and keynote speakers were inspiring, and really helped me to think about where I saw myself in 10 years time. The conference is always an amazing day to meet other women and learn from them and I would recommend for any women studying in STEM to attend!

What are your top three tips to others looking to inspire women?

  • Find your role models! By looking to other women who inspire you, you will be able to see how to inspire others! Make connections with other amazing women and work together
  • Network! You can only inspire people who know who you are. So by building your network, you will find that not only do you inspire others, they will inspire you right back
  • Don’t focus too much on your studying. Take part in as many extra-curricular activities as you can. Not only does it vastly improve your time at university, it opens up so many doors for you to be unique, and this in itself is inspirational.

If you could meet any woman scientist, alive or dead, who would you pick and why?

Definitely Katie Bouman. Katie led the development for the algorithm that developed the first image of a black hole. At only 29 years old, she has achieved so much and inspired so many! I would love to meet her to hear about her journey into STEM and her next steps.