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Still barriers to overcome

23 October 2018

4 mins

Our new Women in Science Ambassador Katrina Cranfield introduces herself and shares her initial experiences as a Loughborough University Chemistry student in her first blog post for us.

Hi! My name is Katrina and I was nominated as the Women in Science Ambassador for Loughborough University’s School of Science.  I started my chemistry degree here at Loughborough after moving from Hong Kong in August.  Deciding to be a chemist was greatly influenced by the passion of two female teachers I had for IB chemistry. This (along with my other experiences) has helped me get to where I am now.

Before starting my course I was unsure of what to expect. I had many doubts about if the course was going to be too hard or if I could keep up with the university standard. I feared being surrounded by people far smarter. If you’re reading this you may have similar concerns. However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that most people are in the same boat. A big relief for myself was that for most STEM subjects the first semester is mainly comprised of reviewing earlier education to get everyone on the same page. It also serves as a good warm up to get back into learning and studying.

Laboratory work is something that got me really anxious for the first two weeks, as it did most people on my course. Being in an unknown environment and working with some unfamiliar equipment was really quite intimidating. But as the day went on we all realised how incredibly helpful and reassuring the demonstrators were, so there’s no reason to be afraid to ask questions. For example, I found myself in a bit of a panic two weeks ago where I thought I had completely ruined my laboratory notebook by not leaving a contents page. However after talking to the module leader (Dr. Platt), we simply put it after my first experiment and made a note so that I wouldn’t have any points deducted. It was a definite relief, but also allowed me to feel connected to my lecturers/module leaders and I’m now less hesitant to ask for help. Making mistakes in the first few weeks is normal for anyone, and the staff are happy to guide you forward regardless of your current ability or background. 

It was also easy to meet and engage with other students on my course, and when working together it was surprisingly easy to connect with each other over the same interests.

About the Ambassador role

My role consists of acting as a student figure and facilitating the involvement of women into STEM. As a student, my goal is to provide detailed feedback to the University, as well as to engage with prospective students in a way that is relatable and reassuring. I will be sharing some of my experiences through social media to give an insight into what STEM at Loughborough is all about.

The lack of women in STEM is an issue that still needs to be addressed despite belief that we are ‘more or less equal now’. There has, of course, been a lot of progress for women in STEM. However, there are still barriers that need to be overcome. From a young age, women should feel comfortable to pursue a STEM subject in order to realise the opportunities that lie ahead. The differences between men and women are what make it so valuable to not dismiss one gender and their abilities, particularly for the problem-solving skills associated with science subjects. A major step to preventing exclusion would be for everyone (regardless of gender) to stop conforming to surrounding stereotypes and stigmatisation.

As a new student, I hope to evaluate the gender ratio gap further and help the University overcome any issues that may prevent women from joining STEM. There will be more from me later in the year as to how my role is developing.

Women in Science

Encouraging more young women to study science-related subjects

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