Finding a connection between, role models for girls, Chile and the night sky.
This week Doreen Lawrence lamented the lack of role models for black youth. “Some times in the House of Lords I am the only black person,” she said. The BBC trust has said the BBC must put more women on air ‘as matter of urgency’, and now we have a new presenter for the Sky at Night, from February.
Congratulations to Maggie Aderin Pocock
“I was trying to recruit people. It’s quite hard to find trained people in the UK. As a scientist I have a brilliant job, I travel the world, Science can change people’s lives, it I decided that I was going to go out there and spread the word. So I started going out to give talks to schools, tours of the universe.”
She says when she started working with the Ministry of Defence, as she entered a room people would ask her for tea and coffee. People aren’t used to seeing black female scientists or engineers. “I always tried to show them straight away I was competent and get their respect. That’s when colour and gender disappear.”
Both of which she has experienced which is why she burns with enthusiasm to get more girls into STEM subjects. Only 13% of all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs in the UK are occupied by women. “When you look at some of the figures – in physical sciences it is about a 30:70 split between women and men, and 10:90 in engineering – you wonder, ‘how far have we come?’ We have to change people’s mindsets.”
Here are just 2 anecdotes Maggie gave in her interview with Christrainers. They show why being a science communicator is a brilliant job. If anyone can inspire girls (and boys) to train in science, Professor Aderin Pocock is the one.
“I like going into inner city schools, Bill will be kicking someone at the back, but slowly but surely he’ll come to the front,and often he’ll be the first one to volunteer, and you know you’ve got them. That is magical. I live for that.
The best thing that happened to me, once in a mixed ability school with deaf kids, one was a voluntary mute since he’d been in the school. Suddenly he was asking his teacher questions What happens if two universes collide? If the universe can inspire so much!”
“I was alone in Chile working on the wonderful eight-metre Gemini telescope. We’d built this troublesome instrument and shipped it to Chile. I’d be there 6 nights a week, no TV, only once a week I’d go down for supplies. Working incredibly long hours, putting it together during the day, testing it at night. Amazingly tired, but amazingly alive. I’d start cooking and the stars appear. Sitting there with a glass of wine as the sun disappeared. Memories like that, you can’t catch on camera.”
Speaking of role models. This week, also in Chile a new leader of the government will be elected, the same night as it happened on Borgen. Since both contenders are women, the leader will be a woman. The election is being fought on the economy rather than any gender issues. Strange the co-incidences of things.