International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Dr Julia Pirson
February 10, 2022

Health care is a highly technical field from the mathematics of health statistics, anatomy and physiology, physics of health care equipment, to the chemistry of dosage. Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) education is a fundamental pillar of aspiring to be and then becoming a doctor.  

February 11th is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To mark this, we would like to celebrate the story of Dame Professor Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology who led the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in early 2020. 2 billion doses of the vaccine had been administered worldwide by November 2021, potentially saving many millions of lives.

Sarah’s journey, which culminated in being awarded Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE), for services to Science and Public Health, started at Kettering High School for Girls, where Sarah was a pupil when she decided she wanted to be a scientist.  From there she got a Batchelor in biological sciences from the University of East Anglia, before working on many disease targets including Ebola, Malaria, and seasonal flu. Her work has directly influenced the lives of all of us in the UK through the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine program.

In 2020, in general practice, 56% of doctors are women, rising to 89% of nurses. 61% of pharmacists, 51% of dentists, and 55% of optometrists are also women, and without all those women, the primary care system simply could not function. Encouraging women and girls into health-related fields is a battle of STEM in education, one which is making steady progress.  In 2020 the number of girls taking core STEM subjects at A-level exceeded the number of boys at 51% for the second year running.  

Programs such as The Stemettes, WISE and Stem.org have a range of resources and information for someone considering a career in STEM. So, if you know someone interested in a STEM subject, why not sit down with them, and learn something new? Everyone can benefit from a bit more STEM in their lives!

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