International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 - Q&A with Daisy Atkin

As part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 CIHT has asked leading CIHT STEM Ambassadors the key questions we need answered.  In this Q&A we speak to Daisy Atkin BSc. (Hons) MCIHT MTPS, Transport Planner, AWP.

According to UNESCO data (2014 - 2016), only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education what should be done to increase the percentage of students selecting STEM-related fields in higher education? 

The barriers that exist to girls and young women are often seen from very early on in their education. We still see students at a young age being influenced by gender-normative activities – boys can play with the building blocks and Lego, while girls can do some drawing or play ‘house’. Fundamentally therefore, there has to be a seismic shift in our thinking and attitude towards this right from the start of students’ education. Fortunately, we are starting to see this shift already and many educators are confident to challenge the gender stereotypes which have plagued schools in the past. Continuing to raise awareness and to be a voice for girls in science and women in engineering is a vital part of my work as a STEM Ambassador, and in many ways, it is as important to educate and challenge the schools themselves, as well as challenging the students in how they perceive STEM subjects. I cannot stress the importance of bringing female STEM Ambassadors into schools, to show girls in a very tangible and relatable way, that STEM careers are absolutely open to them and that there are so many ways of entering a STEM career; not just through the academic route of a university degree, but through apprenticeships etc. We have to make STEM fully accessible for girls and young women, and remove those barriers right from the start.


What should highways and transportation organisations do to encourage women to join the sector?

One thing I notice when looking at corporate website career pages in our industry, is that there is often a dedicated area focusing on women in that company or career. Whilst this is of course an important way of highlighting that women are welcome, it nonetheless reinforces the notion that women are somehow ‘different’ and that we deserve our own special recruitment page to show how happy we are in our jobs and attract more women to the workplace. Creating an open atmosphere of equality is far more palatable, and treating women as equals is vital. That said, there needs to be a continued push towards championing women in STEM, and giving us the voice and resources to do that. Encouraging female staff members to become STEM Ambassadors is an easy and highly rewarding way of achieving this; it allows us to represent our industry with pride and absolute honesty, and to physically be that representation of what we do. This opens up the conversation between the workplace and female students and young professionals, and by creating that dialogue you allow women to safely explore the opportunities available to them.


What should highways and transportation organisations do to achieve gender equity in the workplace? 

I am fortunate enough to work for a company where I have never felt that my gender has played a role in how I am perceived or how I am treated. However, I have been unfortunate enough to work for other places where this was not the case, and it still shocks me when I think of some of the things I’ve seen and heard – and I am only 8 years into my career. As I have already said, it is important to distinguish between creating equality and creating a sense of ‘othering’ women, where we go too far with using female staff members to show ‘just how equal we all are!’. In many ways it is still unfortunately up to us as women to challenge those times we feel that we are not be treated equally, but this still comes with the unspoken risk of consequences further relating to our gender – we are seen as difficult or defiant, whereas our male counterparts might be lauded for speaking up and taking the initiative. Where safe to do so, I encourage every woman to challenge those conversations and to have those conversations openly with colleagues where they are able to. Once again however, it ultimately boils down to educating those in positions of leadership and power, and forcing that fundamental shift in thinking. And if it takes me being seen as defiant and difficult in my continued efforts to achieve this, then I would rather that than stay silent.


Daisy Atkin

Transport Planner, AWP


International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021

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 tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields.

Gender equality has always been a core issue for the United Nations. Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution not only to economic development of the world, but to progress across all the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well.

On 14 March 2011, the Commission on the Status of Women adopted a report at its fifty-fifth session, with agreed conclusions on access and participation of women and girls in education, training and science and technology, and for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. On 20 December 2013, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on science, technology and innovation for development, in which it recognized that full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

On 22 December 2015, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish an annual International Day to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities. In welcoming the efforts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other relevant organizations that support and promote the access of women and girls and their participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, training and research activities at all levels decided to proclaim 11 February of each year the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the CIHT or its members. Neither the CIHT nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.