AHSN NENC supporting International Day of Women and Girls in Science

This Saturday (February 11) people across the world will unite to celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields.

The AHSN NENC is fortunate to operate within a regional health innovation ecosystem that is filled with some incredibly inspiring women who have carved out successful careers within STEM. To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we asked some of our executive team to tell us how and why they chose science…

Dr Nicola Hutchinson, AHSN NENC Chief Executive Officer, said: “Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to do something which would make a difference to people’s lives. My brother Steven, who had severe cerebral palsy, died when I was a teenager, and this fuelled my ambition to carve out a career within science and healthcare so I could help others like him.

“I feel truly honoured to work in science innovation. As part of the AHSN Network, we see health innovations grow from idea to reality, and witness the difference this makes to patients and their families. In my opinion, there’s no greater reward than that.

“I hope that young girls who have a spark for science embrace it and follow their passion. We need more women working in STEM and I look forward to seeing generations of girls joining the field in years to come.”

The AHSN NENC’s Medical Director, Professor Julia Newton, said: “At school, I was always better at sciences and maths compared to subjects like history or languages.  I couldn’t write essays and I liked the objectivity of science. I was the first in my family to go to university and it was my biology teacher who encouraged me to think about medicine as my course. I remember that conversation to this day with Mr Jennison, it made my life what it is today.

“I love my job, and feel really lucky to be a doctor. Every day is different. You have the opportunity to spend time with people when they are at their most vulnerable, and can really make a huge difference to their lives by what you say or how you act – it is an enormous privilege.

“Working in the health service can be hard, and you have such a responsibility to think about those people that you serve, but crikey is it rewarding. I would really advise young women to have those conversations with their teachers and to consider a career in health, science and maths. I can’t believe it’s been 33 years – there aren’t many jobs where the time flies so quickly and you still get up in the morning to come to work and are able to think ‘great – what can I achieve today?’”

Maria Roche, Chief Operating Officer at the AHSN NENC, said: “For years I wanted to be a vet. I grew up in rural Ireland where farming was a huge part of my life. I would help my Dad with the cattle and horses, and especially loved being around when the vet was called out, who in most cases, with a few injections made the sick animal better. As I got older the thought of spending my life in overalls and wellies became less appealing, but I knew I wanted to do something in science and most definitely in healthcare.

“I studied pharmacy at university and started my career as a hospital based clinical pharmacist where I had the most amazing experience rotating across different clinical specialties as part of my foundation training. It was incredibly rewarding and motivating to play a key role in the multidisciplinary team, influencing prescribing decisions which had a direct and visible impact on patient care. My training as a clinical pharmacist taught me significant transferrable skills and provided me with the most wonderful platform to develop my career, diversify, and pursue various roles in the healthcare sector.

“Throughout my career I have admired first-hand many inspirational and successful women in the science, technology, and innovation fields, and in particular those who manage to balance senior leadership roles with young families. I have two messages for any young girls who have a flare for science: 1) Get as much work experience as possible before choosing what to study; and 2) Pursue your dreams, and continue to transcend any barriers. The world really is your oyster.”

To find out more about the United Nations’ plans for International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which this year is focusing on the role of women and girls in sustainable and equitable development, visit: https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day/