There has been a lot of news recently about women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, medicine, mathematics). There has been the very sad news that Maryam Mirzakhani, the so far only woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, has passed away. And now, there is the rather silly discussion about the first female Dr Who.
But this is also the week that I came across an interesting article, about terrible female engineers. This is absolutely spot on. We often celebrate the amazing women who do an incredible job – of being brilliant in work, of being excellent communicators, or being perfect work/life jugglers. And yet, this celebration has a negative side, which is raising the expectations of women in STEMM hugely – contributing to the very prevailing issue of impostor syndrome amongst women. I often see female students as well as scientists whose skills are very comparable to the average or even higher-skilled men in their cohorts, and yet there is a huge lack of self-confidence.
But it is important to remember that, just like not all male mathematicians will get Fields Medals but are still respected, given jobs and responsibilities, be highly effective leaders, women can do the same, without feeling they are less qualified.
I would argue that what we need, apart from fantastic super role models, we also need average role models, men and women (and anywhere in between) who might not be STEMM stars but who are excellent examples of people who can make a positive contribution, and should not be held back because of sex, race, or any other factor. The same standards should apply, in hiring, in promoting, in giving opportunities.
(The image above is the Winton Gallery in the Science Museum, London – designed by Zaha Hadid.)