Hi, I’m Ellie and I studied Chemistry at the University of York! 

Recent UCAS data provided by HESA has found only 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women but this is increasing. I’m proud to be one of the many girls studying sciences and want to encourage other girls to follow their dreams in pursuing STEM. 

I really enjoyed science at secondary school and was fascinated to learn about the world and how things worked. I decided to do STEM at A Level studying chemistry, maths, biology and Yr. 1 physics. I dropped physics after the year because it was my least favourite as I found it more challenging. Most students studied 4 AS’s and 3 A Levels at the time so this wasn’t unusual. Although my experience of studying STEM has been more positive, I found there was a much higher uptake for physics from males, which is still an issue with certain STEM subjects such as computing, maths and physics which tend to be male dominated. 

I chose to study chemistry at degree level because it was my favourite A Level and I was interested in how chemistry can be utilised to tackle global issues such as water scarcity, climate change etc. There was about an even split in males and females on my course, which was a pleasant surprise. The University of York has a much higher uptake of female’s students on science courses – however this isn’t reflected in individual subjects with physics being more male dominated and biology being more female dominated. Although there are still gender stereotypes these are become more outdated and the belief that STEM is for everyone, regardless of gender is becoming more accepted.  

I had a lot of support while at university and it was great to have many female lecturers however, I found that there were limited examples of female scientists and engineers taught to us. This will hopefully change over time as universities as a whole begin to decolonise the curriculum to address this issue. I was really excited to work on widening participation in STEM for my final year project and learn about researching and supporting girls in STEM, as well as other characteristics such as ethnicity, class and disability. This was really positive, and I was excited to learn about the research being done to tackle these issues and promote inclusivity. 

Although I work in education now, having decided I was more interested in widening participation and supporting students with their next steps, that doesn’t mean to say a career in science isn’t an option. I have many female friends who loved their degree and are working in chemical companies around the world and carrying out amazing research. I’m also excited to hear that a lot of them are pursuing PhD’s and staying in STEM education.  

To summarise, there is a stereotype that STEM is not for girls, but this is outdated and not the case. The only barrier to STEM is yourself and believing in yourself and your abilities. If you want to study STEM, go for it and if you have any questions about females in STEM or about Hello Future in general, email us at hellofuture@cumbria.ac.uk.