We need more women in Science and Engineering!

Trowel Blazers

Why? Because our whole world – our bodies, our environment, climate, travel, food, clothing, medicine, entertainment, travel, communication – all is science. When we think of technology, how much do we really understand? Not just how things work, but what are the consequences of the decisions made by politicians, owners of businesses, companies, - oil, steel, cars, construction, energy production, logging, agriculture – to name a few. Can we be sure that the people making decisions that affect all of us, directly or indirectly, have a clear understanding of consequences and outcomes?

Until we have a population that is sufficiently literate in science, politicians will continue to form policies with little or no regard or understanding of long-term outcomes.

So- we need a scientifically literate population upon which to draw the leaders of the future. Not just the politicians, but all those in positions to help shape company policies across the spectrum of business and industry.

Ok. So we need to ‘up our game’ when it comes to educating and to encourage – actively encourage, not just sit back and hope – students to take the courses that will prepare them for the future, and give them the basis for choosing from the very varied menu of scientific careers.

And, yes, encourage and support girls who choose those more demanding courses – physics, chemistry, maths, meteorology. Without that initial grounding in scientific disciplines, no-one can choose to major in those subjects in University or college.

We must, somehow change the culture that tells girls that those courses are ‘too hard’, that ‘girls aren’t good at maths’, that ‘there are few job prospects for you in those fields’.

To do that, we need to present girls (and boys) with examples of how exciting science is – get them hooked on astronomy or marine biology, the excitement of archeology, especially partnered with emerging technologies.

We are going to need people who understand climatology and its effects on how we can feed a world that is undergoing climate change (man-made or not, climate change is a fact that we must deal with – the sooner the better.) So let’s get our youngsters pumped up about the many exciting and fascinating careers open to them in science and engineering.

We came across a wonderful blog called Trowel Blazers - check it out!  It is run by a group of four female scientists.

There are many women in scientific roles, and this site highlights them in a lively and attractive blog.

Also check out the British Science Association website, and the Met Office website – they both have some fascinating material that could spark a latent interest or enthusiasm.

Let us celebrate those women who have become leaders in their fields, and hold them up for our daughters, sisters and mothers to emulate.

Constructing life stories of women

Archaeolgists, Mr and Mrs Mallett at Harlyn Bay, c. 1900 (credit: R. Ashington Bullen, "Harlyn Bay and the Discoveries of its Prehistoric Remains" 1902). How do you write the life-story of a woman? Are biographies of women different to those of men?

Biography as a genre has a field of study all of its own. But for History 51 we are very much starting from scratch and most of our subjects are having their biographies written or constructed for the very first time (e.g. through art, craft, photographic journeys, film and oral history).

The history of the great and the good?

Contributors to History 51 have asked if the women we want to record have to be famous or have done something outstanding in the conventional sense of the male dominated narratives we're used to that promote the achievements of 'great men' especially if they are kings, princes and politicians.

The simple answer is No.

History is about understanding change over time. The acts of women, good and bad, have contributed hugely to those changes which have affected the lives and men and women alike.

We also have hundreds of thousands of female ancestors about whom nothing is written.

The Elizabeth Treffry Collection documents the lives of women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly from all walks of life and will continue to do so. We do not privilege one kind of achievement over another.

We can learn so much about the past and about our own attitudes today if we listen more to the everyday stories of ordinary people. And very often we will find that they were not that ordinary at all.

We also have hundreds of thousands of female ancestors about whom nothing is written. Archaeologists are experts at reconstructing lives and lifestyles from the remains of past societies, and Cornwall and Scilly are blessed with some of the the richest, most fascinating archaeology in the world.

Cornish Women's Index data entry form

Documenting lives in the Cornish Women's Index

As part of History 51 we are developing a pioneering digital project to record and gather together the life-stories of as many women as possible. The Cornish Women's Index will be a Wikipedia-style online database that contributors can add to from anywhere they have an internet connection.

We'll shortly be offering training to our contributors so if you'd like to take part and add your story, please register your interest.

You can also find out more in our Cornish Women's Index guide in the History 51 resources section.