On International Women’s Day, this is the reality of being a woman in STEM at BU

“Mentally, it’s exhausting”

Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) have been underrepresented for years. Statistics show that just 31 per cent of core STEM students in Higher Education in the UK are women or non-binary. Here at Bournemouth University we have our very own Women in STEM (WIS) society, which provides a safe space for women to come together, with plenty of networking opportunities available.

We spoke to the President of WIS, Tina Popko, and the Secretary, Courtney Loft, about what it is really like to be a Woman in STEM.

Tina, who studies biological sciences, spoke of the lack of women in the industry. She said: “I think it’s very challenging because of the content, it’s a lot of revision, STEM is a very demanding subject, and mentally it’s exhausting. I know there’s women in engineering that feel like there aren’t enough women on the courses.”

Photo from Bournemouth’s Women In Stem Society Instagram

“Since I joined, Bournemouth University has provided a lot of opportunities for women in STEM, it makes us feel like we are seen. They know we are struggling and the university provides a lot of support for us, such as panel events, a lot of opportunities – it’s improved over the years.”

Courtney, who studies Ecology and Wildlife Conservation, spoke of her disappointment of women in STEM not being taken seriously: “It’s still such a male-dominated industry, I feel like women sometimes aren’t taken seriously. I have a friend in engineering and she always gets brushed off as doing textiles and I think that’s so wrong for people just to assume that.”

Courtney also spoke about what it’s like to be part of the WIS society: “I think it’s quite empowering actually, you’re part of a community with other like minded women and it’s something I’m proud I went into every single day, even though it’s quite challenging.

“Our society gives a safe space for people to connect with each other and I think that makes such a difference when you’re studying such a difficult subject. With being connected with like-minded individuals, it makes the university experience easier.

She also spoke about the support women receive when joining the society: “If on the society you’re friends with someone who is on the same course but the year above you, they can give you advice and act as a bit of a mentor.

“We have quite a bit of support, especially from SUBU, we get regular updates and if we have a question there’s always multiple people we can go to to get it sorted really quickly. I think the level of support at BU has increased since I’ve been here.”

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