Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Celebrating women in science

The School is proud of its diversity and has recently pledged its commitment to women in science by signing up to the Athena SWAN Charter. Professor Charlotte Watts helped raise the profile of women in science by standing on a soap box in central London, taking science to the streets and showing why science is not just a job for the boys. 

Charlotte Watts on the South Bank soap box

The mathematician and epidemiologist left the lecture theatres and labs to join other leading female scientists on the South Bank at the Soapbox Science event, organised by the Zoological Society of London and L’Oreal –UNESCO For Women in Science programme.

Her chosen topic was Sex and mathematics: unlikely bedfellows in HIV research? Stripping away the jargon, Prof Watts discussed condoms and circumcision, treatments and calculations as she spoke to passers by about ways to overcome the HIV epidemic and the rewards of a science career. Although girls make up more than half of GCSE students studying science, women make up less than 10% of professorships in the UK. As well as taking her latest HIV research direct to the public, the actions of Prof Watts (and the other soap box scientists) were aimed at helping to inspire the next generation of young scientists.

Prof Watts said:  “I am fortunate to work in an environment where women are valued and regarded as equally as important as men. I know this isn’t the case everywhere and some young girls may not see a career in science as a realistic option. But talking to passers by on the South Bank I was heartened to see how far we have come. People described how when they were at school the only science girls had the chance to do was biology. The women standing on soap boxes showed that times are changing and I hope young girls who are interested in science are encouraged to pursue their dreams and not be put off by false stereotypes.”

You can read more about her experiences in her blog in the Independent.

The School is meanwhile delighted to announce it has recently reinforced its commitment to equality by signing up to the Athena SWAN Charter, which recognises and celebrates good employment practice for women working in science, engineering and technology in higher education and research.  

Professor Laura Rodrigues, head of the Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, is chairing the School’s Athena SWAN committee. She said: “We are firmly committed to equal opportunities and are delighted to become an Athena SWAN Charter member. Women play a key role in every aspect and at all levels of the School’s business, not least female scientists leading the way in teaching and research.”


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