International Women’s Day 2024: Celebrating Women in STEM
As we approach International Women’s Day 2024, it’s crucial to recognise and celebrate the remarkable contributions of women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Historically, these areas have been predominantly male-dominated, yet the tide is turning, thanks in large part to the trailblazing efforts of countless women. Their achievements not only break barriers but also pave the way for future generations, demonstrating the indispensable role of women in driving innovation and progress.
Contributions of Women in STEM Fields
Women in STEM have been instrumental in some of the most significant advancements in recent history. From groundbreaking research in biotechnology to pioneering developments in artificial intelligence, women have been at the forefront of scientific discovery and technological innovation. Celebrating these achievements is not just about giving credit where it’s due; it’s about inspiring young girls and women to pursue their passions in these dynamic fields.
Here are some of Our Top Women in STEM Keynote Speakers
Florence Adepoju is a shining example of how passion and science can merge to create innovation. With a deep love for chemistry and makeup, Florence pursued a career as a cosmetic scientist. She founded MDMFlow, a makeup company, at the young age of 22. Her journey began with a plan to study pharmacy, but a job at a beauty counter at 16 sparked her love for the industry. She then studied Cosmetic Science at the London College of Fashion, where she learned about the chemical structures needed for cosmetic products, as well as marketing and packaging. Florence’s work is particularly notable for addressing the lack of diversity in makeup products for different skin types, using her scientific background to innovate in this area. Her brand aims to become a household name, and she is already making strides by selling her lipsticks in high-street stores in the UK. Florence Adepoju’s story is an inspiring example of how women in STEM can impact industries like cosmetics through science and innovation.
Ayo Sokale‘s journey in STEM is a testament to resilience and the power of engineering to transform lives. As a civil engineer, her childhood experiences in Nigeria, particularly witnessing extreme flooding, deeply influenced her career path. This early exposure to the impact of infrastructure on society fuelled her determination to pursue a career that could make a positive societal impact. Ayo, as a black, autistic woman, has navigated multiple barriers and prejudices in the traditionally male-dominated field of civil engineering. Despite being pressured into administrative roles during her university years, she has risen to become a project team manager at the Environment Agency, working on significant projects like the River Thames scheme. Her passion lies in creating sustainable engineering solutions to mitigate climate change and improve lives. Ayo’s story is not just about overcoming challenges but also about the importance of diversity in STEM fields, particularly in addressing global issues like climate change. Her experiences underscore the need for more inclusive representation in STEM, making her an ideal speaker for events focusing on diversity, resilience, and the impact of engineering on society.
Helen Sharman‘s remarkable career in STEM is highlighted by her historic achievement as the first British person, the first Western European woman, and the first privately funded woman in space. Born on May 30, 1963, in Sheffield, England, Sharman pursued her passion for science, earning a BSc in chemistry from the University of Sheffield in 1984 and a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London, in 1987. Her career took a dramatic turn when she responded to a radio advertisement seeking applicants for the first British astronaut. Selected from nearly 13,000 applicants, Sharman embarked on Project Juno, a cooperative Soviet-British mission. After 18 months of intensive training in Star City, Moscow, she launched into space aboard Soyuz TM-12 in May 1991, spending eight days in space, most of which were at the Mir space station.
During her mission, Sharman conducted medical and agricultural tests, photographed the British Isles, and engaged in a radio hookup with British schoolchildren. Her journey into space at the age of 27 made her the sixth youngest of the 556 individuals who have flown in space as of 2017. Post-mission, Sharman has continued to inspire as a science communicator, author, and advocate for STEM education. Her story is not only a testament to her pioneering spirit but also serves as a powerful inspiration for women in STEM, showcasing the heights that can be achieved with determination and passion for science.
Professor Suzie Imber
Prof. Suzie Imber, a renowned British planetary scientist at the University of Leicester, epitomises excellence in STEM. With a first-class honours degree in physics from Imperial College London and a PhD from the University of Leicester, her career has been marked by significant contributions to understanding space weather. Prof. Imber’s work, particularly on the influence of solar wind on Earth and Mercury, gained international recognition, leading to her role as the only UK member of NASA’s MESSENGER Science Team. Her resilience and expertise were further highlighted when she won the BBC Two program “Astronauts, Do You Have What It Takes?” in 2017, earning a recommendation to join the European Space Agency.
Baroness Nicola Blackwood
Baroness Nicola Blackwood, a prominent figure in the intersection of politics and science, has made significant contributions to the STEM field, particularly in health and life sciences. Born in Johannesburg and raised in the UK, she pursued her passion for music before transitioning into a political career. As a Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon from 2010 to 2017, she played a pivotal role in shaping science and technology policies. Her tenure included chairing the Science and Technology Select Committee and serving as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health and Innovation. In 2019, she was appointed as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Science, further cementing her influence in the health sector. Baroness Blackwood’s career is marked by her dedication to integrating scientific innovation into government policy, making her an inspiring figure for International Women’s Day, especially for those interested in the impact of STEM in public policy and health sciences.
Dr Suzy Walton
Dr. Suzy Walton, a distinguished figure in corporate governance, health, and science, has an inspiring journey marked by resilience and versatility. Starting her career in the arts and media, she later pivoted to academia, earning a BSc in psychology and an MSc, followed by a PhD from Cranfield University for her research in military suicide at the Ministry of Defence. Dr. Walton’s remarkable ability to balance her professional life, including roles on over 15 major boards such as the University of Westminster, Internet Watch Foundation, and the Royal Society of Arts, with personal challenges, notably raising seven children and overcoming the loss of her husband, exemplifies her extraordinary dedication and strength. Her journey, characterised by overcoming obstacles and breaking barriers, makes her an exemplary role model for International Women’s Day.
Laura Winterling, a physicist and former Astronaut Instructor for the European Space Agency, has significantly contributed to space science education. Over a decade, she taught spacecraft systems to astronauts, specialising in spacecraft systems and sensors for ESA’s Cargo Vessel ATV and the Lift Support System of the Columbus Space Laboratory. Laura’s expertise extended to training flight controllers globally and participating in real-time ISS operations. Her passion for human spaceflight led to her taking on roles in event management at the European Astronaut Centre and as a motivational speaker. Laura shares her unique space flight experiences with audiences worldwide, making her an inspiring figure for International Women’s Day and highlighting women’s roles in space exploration and science.
Liz Bonnin, a science, wildlife, and natural history presenter, has made significant contributions to science communication through television in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Born in Paris and raised in Ireland, Bonnin holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin and a master’s degree in wild animal biology and conservation from the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Veterinary College. Her career began in the entertainment industry, but she later shifted to science broadcasting. Bonnin is renowned for presenting various wildlife and science programs, including “Galapagos,” “Stargazing Live,” “Blue Planet Live,” and “Drowning In Plastic.” Her work, particularly in raising awareness about environmental and conservation issues, positions her as a prominent natural world presenter in Britain and an inspiring figure for International Women’s Day.
Professor Sue Black
Professor Sue Black, an esteemed computer scientist and tech evangelist, has made significant strides in advocating for women in technology. As the founder of BCSWomen, the UK’s first online network for women in tech, and #techmums, she empowers mothers and families through technology. Her remarkable journey from leaving school at 16 to becoming an Honorary Professor at University College London and a senior Research Associate at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, is a testament to her resilience and determination. Sue’s notable achievements include saving Bletchley Park, the WWII codebreaking site, using social media, for which she received the Social Impact ABIE Award and an OBE. Her motivational speeches inspire many, focusing on overcoming adversity through education and technology.
Professor Turi E. King
Professor Turi E. King is a notable figure in genetics, known for her leadership in the DNA verification of Richard III of England. As a Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, she combines her expertise in ancient DNA research and genetic genealogy. King’s work, including her significant thesis on the relationship between British surnames and Y-chromosomal haplotypes, has greatly contributed to the field of genetics. She is also recognised for her role in the BBC Two series “DNA Family Secrets,” where she brings complex genetic concepts to a wider audience.
Dr. Kerry McInereny
Dr. Kerry McInerney (née Mackereth) is a distinguished figure in the field of AI ethics, recognised as one of the 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics for 2022. She serves as a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, where she leads a €1.9 million AI ethics initiative and co-directs the Global Politics of AI project. Dr. McInerney’s expertise spans feminism and technology, anti-Asian racism in AI, AI hiring software, and diversity in tech. She co-hosts The Good Robot podcast, a platform for discussions on feminism and technology, and has been featured on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking and The Guilty Feminist. Her work in AI ethics is internationally recognised, with contributions to the “Feminist AI” collection and co-editing “The Good Robot: Feminist Voices on the Future of Technology.” Dr. McInerney’s influence in AI and technology makes her an inspiring figure for International Women’s Day, highlighting the crucial role of women in shaping the ethical landscape of emerging technologies.
Kitty Horlick is an experienced investor and expert in cryptocurrencies and NFTs, with a career spanning over five years in this innovative field. Starting in 2017, she joined Ehab, a startup focused on transforming the construction industry through blockchain technology. Kitty’s role involves educating businesses and audiences about the potential and challenges of blockchain, the metaverse, and NFTs, guiding them to make well-informed decisions.
Her talks cover a variety of topics, including the latest trends in the metaverse and crypto world, the evolution of consumer behaviour in these areas, and real-life case studies of both successful and unsuccessful projects. In addition to her blockchain expertise, Kitty has a strong background in communications, having worked in public relations and journalism. Her engaging storytelling, drawn from her firsthand experiences in the dynamic world of blockchain, makes her a captivating and knowledgeable speaker in the field of digital technology.
As we look to the future, it’s clear that women will continue to drive innovation and progress in STEM. Their perspectives, skills, and leadership will be critical in addressing some of the most pressing challenges of our time.