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Girls and science: Finding the next Ada Lovelace

The proportion of young women studying science in further education is dramatically lower compared to girls in schools.
Here, Dame Mary Archer, chair of the Science Museum Group, explains how famous figures from history can inspire a new generation of female scientists.
I have always loved science. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by understanding what things are made of and motivated by curiosity to find out for myself.I did my first experiment at the age of seven. It involved a worm and I'm afraid the worm did not come off very well.Children are naturally curious and investing in this instinct ensures the best training for scientists.Their work is to carefully interrogate ideas in methodical ways to make breakthroughs that have the potential to help us live better, healthier and more fulfilling lives.It is interesting and noble work and the prospect of being a scientist led me to study chemistry at university. But that is where I became unusual.Children are roughly 50/50 when it comes to gender and all children who go to school study science to some level.:: Vote: Who is Britain's most influential woman?
Girls and science: Finding the next Ada Lovelace

Image:
Hidden Figures told the story of NASA's black female mathematicians in the 1960s
But when you look at the numbers choosing to study sciences in further education, the proportion of young women drops dramatically.This is something we are working hard to address across the Science Museum Group but we have to do more. More to increase gender equality in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers in the UK.
It is critically important for our economy and to develop crucial industries for the next generation.When you look at the history of STEM, there are tales of intrepid endeavours and amazing discoveries.Most of the best known are by men, with only a handful of female names remaining in the public consciousness.But I think of inspirational women like Ada Lovelace, the 19th century mathematician who worked on a general purpose computer, or Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space and still the only one to complete a solo space flight.
Girls and science: Finding the next Ada Lovelace

Image:
Ada Lovelace, the 19th century mathematician
Amy Johnson, the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia whose illustrious career set many records, and British Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dorothy Hodgkin, whose discoveries are essential for modern medicine, are also names that immediately come to mind.In recent decades, we have seen a growth in the opportunities for women to establish long and successful careers in science and the number of individuals and organisations working to support this increase.Films like Hidden Figures and people like Moumita Dutta at the Indian Space Research Organisation help young women to see formidable female role models in space science.Initiatives like the Year of Engineering and the Science Museum's Engineer Your Future gallery show that women are leading and contributing to some of the most valuable scientific and technological advancements of the day.
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But we can and must do more to help girls and young women feel that science is truly for them.:: Dame Mary Archer is chair of the board of trustees of the Science Museum Group.
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