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Biology student represents UK in Europe

A University of St Andrews PhD student has represented the United Kingdom at a European event for science students in France.

Naomi Fawcett, 24, has just returned from a European Summer University workshop on “Women and Technology in Europe”, in Lyon, France. The third year Biology PhD was chosen as the sole UK student delegate to participate in workshops sharing the experiences of both men and women from across the EEC.

The Summer University in Lyon is one of several funded by the EEC, and its aim is to arouse students’ interest in the European Academic and Cultural Community. Naomi was selected to attend the ten-day long event, along with another 50 student delegates from around Europe, by the UK National coordinator for the programme, Dr Maureen Cooper from the University of Stirling. Naomi joined fellow students from countries as diverse as Greece, Slovakia, Austria, France, Lithuania, Russia and Sweden.

The group attended talks on the common lack of participation of women in technology, and were shown how member countries were developing different solutions according to their own social and cultural backgrounds.

On returning from the conference, Naomi said: “The value of open, non-partisan discussions was immense. Each country had slightly different problems showing that integration of ideas across Europe could help to even out social bias against women in science. The goals we set can be achieved if everyone works together as we did.”

“I have witnessed that women do face an uphill struggle in science, and am disappointed that few in the UK recognise the need to do something. I was honoured to be selected to go to Lyon and found it tremendously heartening to participate in open discussions with people determined to make our society better,” she said.

With science student numbers decreasing everywhere, keeping women who have studied science in technocological work is a logical way to have enough people to run our industries. During the workshop, the delegates developed recommendations to remedy problems in all areas of science, including primary and secondary schools, higher education and scientific employment.

The recommendations, which will be fed back to the EU commission on Women, included: more male teachers and real-life fix-it projects in primary schools; using a less abstract approach to science in high school; improved gender and technology science training for all teachers, and open-minded career advising with women models in less traditional jobs.

For higher education, they suggested competence classes to build self-confidence in technology, a strong equal opportunities programme, positive help to get women into student politics, and creation of multi- disciplinary courses.

And in scientific working life, the delegates felt that life-long learning for career flexibility would benefit everyone, as would equal access to parental leave. Transparent wage and career progress would help close that serious gap in all work fields and minimise the reluctance of women to apply for promotion. The biggest hurdle was felt to be societal attitudes, particularly in some of the countries represented. It was thought that financial support for childcare, awareness education to counter stereotyping, and, above all, commercial advertising to promote the visibility of famous women scientists, showing that women too are bread-winners, could all contribute to shifting the bias against women.

The workshop, held from the 1st – 10th July, was organised by the multidisciplinary research centre, ESCHIL (Equipe de Sciences Humaines de l’INSA de Lyon) which specialises in the study of engineers.

ENDS

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: Biology Grad European event pr 010802 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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