Keep pushing STEM subjects for women - Hannah Mulholland

International Women and Girls in Science Day is an annual event held on February 11. It was set up by the United Nations General Assembly to promote equal access and participation of women in STEM subjects.

I’m a 23-year-old woman and I work for a material science and engineering firm. I think initiatives that encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects are hugely important, especially as women make up only 16.5 per cent of the engineering workforce in the UK.

I’m part of a new generation of women that has benefitted from STEM educational initiatives and awareness days such as the one that took place yesterday. They have no doubt contributed in some small way to encourage me to pursue STEM subjects, but with female workforce numbers still as low as 16.5 per cent we can’t afford to give up on them.

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I was one of only two girls in my Higher Physics class at school. I was very passionate about physics, but I’ve had a handful of experiences that made me doubt my abilities and academic choices.

Hannah Mulholland says she benefitted from STEM educational initiativesHannah Mulholland says she benefitted from STEM educational initiatives
Hannah Mulholland says she benefitted from STEM educational initiatives

Back in 2018 I attended an open day at a Scottish University for an engineering course. I walked into the lecture hall full of anticipation and was immediately told by a man that I was in the wrong room. He had taken one look at me and my pink backpack and assumed that I couldn’t have been interested in engineering. As someone who suffers from imposter syndrome this really knocked my self-belief.

Needless to say, I decided to study elsewhere. Dundee University welcomed me with open arms, and four years later I graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in physics. I threw myself into everything the course had to offer, including an outreach project to get primary school children enthused about science and taking part in a scheme that saw me mentor a first-year female physics student to help her development.

My degree led me to an intern position at a global material science company, W. L. Gore & Associates (UK) Limited. Gore was recognised by Great Place to Work as one of the UK’s best workplaces for Women in 2022, and it has great schemes set up to encourage women to thrive and interns to grow and find their niche.

I can see why girls can be put off by stereotypes and non-inclusive behaviour, but as someone that loves science, I want it to be an accessible path for everyone. Increasingly the jobs of the future lie in engineering, science, digital and tech. If only a small percentage of women pursue these subjects, they won’t get to benefit from the best jobs in the market.

So, I encourage businesses, universities, and schools to pay attention to initiatives like International Women and Girls in Science Day. The impact they can have shouldn’t be overlooked.