School of Science

Equality and Diversity

Women In Science blog

Our Women In Science Ambassador shares her experiences of life as a Loughborough science student.

Lecture series reflection

One of the messages that came up time and time again was about having confidence in yourself to just go for it.

There have been a number of different Women in Science-related events this last semester, including the Women in Science lecture series hosted by the School of Science and a special panel on Female Leaders in STEM hosted by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) alongside the Loughborough Careers Network. Both events brought in guest speakers from a number of different backgrounds to give an insight into how their career has progressed, and what it has meant for them to be a woman in STEM. Since these were such informative and inspiring events to attend, I thought I would use this blog post to summarise some of the key points.

One of the messages that came up time and time again was about having confidence in yourself to just go for it.

Gillian Mara (a sports science engineer, and senior consultant at Lane4) reminded us to take the opportunities that come our way, and when faced with a task (no matter how challenging), to simply say: “why not?”. I think it’s both important and empowering to take on these opportunities and challenge ourselves to see what we can really achieve. It might be something like this that would allow yourself to realise your own ability, like Holly Armitage who doubted herself for so long and turned down promotions because she didn’t feel good enough for it.

Holly (Head of Data Services for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence) said that, ultimately, she had been her biggest barrier, and I think this is true for a lot of women. She and others also reminded us that you don’t have to be the best at STEM to do well in STEM. You can still grow up liking princesses and doing your make up to make it far in the STEM world; all you need to do is build your confidence and go for it.

Another important note that came up multiple times was about how to be a powerful woman in STEM, and how to take on those senior roles. A significant thing that came up for me was that companies want women to be women. Leadership comes naturally to women and these skills are highly prized by companies so don’t change or try to be something else. Rather than changing your style to conform with professional expectations, be you; a company will hire you for the way you are and the way you work.

I think, for women, we also find it easy to incorporate human elements into our work and even if it takes a little bit of force, our opinions are just as important at the big table. One of the things that made me laugh, but was also very true, is if you think you should do something but someone else disagrees, just do it anyway. Chances are, it will pay off and you will earn the respect that’s deserved.

Lastly, the biggest thing I’d like to highlight is something every guest speaker mentioned, which is balance.

It’s important to still have creative or physical outlets that allow your mind to focus on other things. I think there were two distinct types of people. Those whose outlet was creative - for example art - and others who got mental release from physical activity and exercise, some even excelling at a national level, all while maintaining a senior role. You don’t have to limit yourself to being just a scientist or an artist or athlete; you shouldn’t categorise yourself as one or the other. You can have both in your life. This made it seem so much more manageable to pursue and succeed in these careers without it having to take up all your time. To know and appreciate that there is more to someone than just their career was really uplifting to me, and it made me more comfortable with going for those more powerful positions while maintaining other interests and self-care. By being able to bring all these aspects into your life, or maybe even one place, Gillian was right to say that this will give you a sense of control and confidence. While it is important to focus on a career and developing yourself within STEM, you still need to stay you.

These events were definitely worth attending, and it was greatly comforting and inspiring to hear these real stories from real women who have achieved so much. Some of them always knew their heart was in STEM, while others weren’t sure for a long time, but they’ve all been successful and found their place. In the future, we are hoping to include more events and lecture series such as these, and I'd encourage others to attend as I believe they would really benefit like I did.

About Katrina

"My name is Katrina Cranfield and I am the Women in Science Ambassador. I’m half British half Portuguese, and spent the last 7 years living in Hong Kong.  I’ve now come to Loughborough to start my undergraduate degree in Chemistry, and as the Women in Science Ambassador I hope to evolve the way Loughborough welcomes women into STEM through my own student perspectives."

Katrina was selected to be the School of Science Women in Science Ambassador on the strength of her academic results, supporting statement and performance at interview. Over the coming year she will be blogging for us, as well as fulfilling her role representing women in science on our School social media channels, open days and other events. Katrina is interested in engaging with current students and prospective students who have any questions and concerns about being a female student in STEM at university. If you would like to ask her a question, please email her.  The best questions may form the basis of future blog posts, but they will be anonymised and we will seek permission first.