British Science Week/ Jess Science Month, Week One

A Webinar on the Gender Pay Gap

Occasionally I’m asked to do things that I don’t think I’ll be able to achieve- like put the incline on a running machine to 15 % during an exercise class, lift up 20 kg of weight (I have arms like toothpicks) or comment on the legality of the gender pay gap. International Women’s Day sparked a lot of debate- well, a lot of reflection, on how bad things were. I was asked by HR Review to take part in a one-hour webinar, with two lawyers (!) where we discussed the gender pay gap. After initially bailing (I like to do my homework, and a busy IWD2016 meant that I would like not have time) I decided to try it anyway.

I read the various reports and websites of EY, the CMI institute, the Young Women’s TrustMcKinsey and the Fawcett Society and became incredibly (a) clued up (b) angry that it had gone on for so long. My perspective was going to be to talk about the gender pay gap in science, which is complicated by the fact that women self-select out of high wages by not getting the appropriate qualifications/ training to get the high-paid jobs in the first place. Whilst science isn’t perfect, wages are pretty transparent, and certainly at the start of your career you apply for fixed salary positions. It becomes complicated by the fact that the common roles and responsibilities of women are not as compatible with life as a travelling scientist: conferences, late night seminars, 90 hour + working week leaving little time for ‘chief-carer’ positions: it’s just not as easy. For universities we have the Athena Swan charter, which has both critics and supporters, but at least makes people in leadership position take a long hard look at numbers. It’s very similar to the new government proposals for companies above a certain size (250 + employees) to report how they pay men and women, only there’s no pay involved and just a general assessment of equality and diversity. For scientific apprenticeships, the lack of skills and encouragement into the programs are just as bad as academia, but the pay gap can be as shocking as £2,000 per year.  Unfortunately, like Athena Swan, the government can’t really do much for companies that don’t report, and for there are no repercussions for those that do report a gender pay gap.

Specifically, we were discussing the following questions:

1) Do you think enough is being done in the UK to deal with the gender pay gap?

2) The government is launching new legislation to compel businesses to reveal how much men and women earn within a company in an attempt to tackle the gender pay gap. Do you think this is a good idea? Or will it cause more problems for businesses than those it will set out to solve?

3) What do you think are the barriers within the corporate world that have prevented the closure of the gender pay gap in the past?

4) Do you think the government can do anything else to help to close the gender pay gap, or do you think responsibility now lies with business to do more? What else do you think can be done?

The notes I made are online here, and you can register to watch the webinar here.

Overall our webinar was rated 4.8/5, which is apparently pretty good.

Making solar panels at a school in Teddington with my best friend (09/03)

Seb and I are helping Turing House School, a brand new school in Teddington (right next to NPL) achieve their London’s Special Leaders Award. After our monthly sessions the STEM club will submit an idea/ invention accompanied with with a descriptive letter. Seb and I spoke about renewable energy on our first trip and post lent will next tackle the material properties of chocolate.

Speaking at Putney High School, GDST, about being a woman in science (10/03)

I’m a Girls Day School Trust nut, and after spending Monday night watch Dr. Foster rock Sutton took to the District Line to represent physics alumnae of the GDST in Putney. I got to speak in the library, which was awesome. A small version of my slides are available here.

Micro-hack with the STEMettes in Chichester (11/03)

To maintain balance across all four components of ‘STEM’- I’m very good at celebrating the ‘S’, awesome about preaching the ‘E’ and a champion of maintaining the ‘M’- I was a co-coder at the STEMettes hackathon in Chichester. Only it wasn’t in Chichester, it was in Bognor Regis, which we realised about 45 minutes in to the train to Chichester. The event ‘Sparks2016’ welcomed fifty fourteen year-old girls into the Tech industry, via a panel discussion/ careers networking with South Coast scientists and website building session with the STEMettes. There were website dedicated to Easter Egg hunts, those which questioned the chocolate/ religious elements of Easter and bunny hotels for tired rabbits. Interestingly the year 9s in Chichester are a different breed to their London counterparts: still selfie loving but with an air of innocence that made an Easter themed coding session possible. The girls started by messing around in Mozilla, playing with their X-Ray Goggles and Thimble editing program.

The Institute of Making’s Third Birthday (12/03)

After meeting the legend that is Mark Miodownik at the IOP last November I was lucky enough to keep on his radar, and spent Saturday running a science in the kitchen stand at the Institute of Making’s Third Birthday. The event welcomed over 700 members of the public, was featured on ITV news and was listed in Time Out magazine. On my table of tricks I had some pretty colourful density columns, homemade lava lamps, dry ice cloud bubbles, super powerful magnets and some vanishing water pearls. The official photo album for the event is available here. If you’re looking for London-based material science action, I’d keep a beady eye on their events page. I was impressed by the turn-out for the Saturday afternoon activity: an inter-disciplinary Bloomsbury bonanza of educated inquisitive teachers (finding science week inspo), families and students.

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