International Day of the Girl Child
International Day of the Girl Child
Today is the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. The day aims to shine a light on the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting their empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. In today’s blog, we will hear from Lilly Manzoni, Head of Research and Development at LettUs Grow, about why we should empower girls in STEM.
Lilly is a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM. As well as her role at LettUs Grow, she’s the Diversity and Inclusion Lead for the local chapter of Legal Hackers, an organisation which aims to ethically hack problems for traditionally under-represented groups.
When choosing what to study at university, engineering never crossed my mind, not only that, but it was never presented to me as an option. Now, I work as an aerosols engineer and lead the Research and Development team at LettUs Grow. I love my job.
I chose to study Chemistry, a field dominated by men but with a clear history of strong women forcing their way into the field. In the past, women like Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Stephanie Kwolek and Dorothy Hodgkin broke through barriers and transformed the world with their work (try to imagine a world without X-rays, computers, fibre optic and insulin before telling me they haven’t affected your life). People like Professor Lesley Yellowlees and Anne-Marie Imafidon are champions of women in STEM today.
A study by Mckinsey and Company found that companies in the top quartile for diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective industry medians. They also found that environments with higher levels of diversity were more creative. This makes sense, people from different backgrounds bring alternative perspectives, ideas and ways of achieving goals.
Shockingly, only 12% of engineering professionals identify as female. We can do so much better than this. In total, people who identify as female make up only 25% of the STEM workforce. We are missing out on brilliant minds because we aren’t encouraging more women into STEM subjects.
There are three things which will help us move towards rebalancing the gender split in STEM:
Challenge the associations of gendered children’s toys, girls should be encouraged to play with train sets, Lego and toy helicopters (they’re brilliant fun).
Normalise equal maternity and paternity leave. This will help women returning to work after pregnancy and allow men to be around for their children.
Encourage girls to engage with STEM subjects, because they can do really well!
At LettUs Grow
At LettUs Grow, we promote a diverse working environment, not just in terms of gender but also age, race, background, religion, sexual orientation and other personal characteristics unrelated to their job performance. We have women (like myself) leading teams of engineers, have equal maternity/paternity leave and engage with the local community through organisations like Babassa. Babbasa is a Bristol-based social enterprise that empowers young people (up to 25) from ethnically diverse and less advantaged communities to move into work, education, or business – so they feel inspired, supported and ready to fulfil their ambitions. We aim to foster an environment where STEM is inherently celebrated no matter your background.
STEM subjects are places where women belong and excel, no one should ever believe that they’re not meant for STEM because they can’t see other women there. Like, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Stephanie Kwolek and Dorothy Hodgkin, they could be the person who inspires the next generation of girl children.