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Students debate with role models at Sci-Tech Girls Day

On 15 October, more than 100 girls from across Europe attended the Sci Tech Girls day to meet female scientific and technological role models and think about their future. The Sci-Tech Girls event was held in conjunction with the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society and it consisted of a series of discussions between female students and leading scientists and technologists. Initiated in 2007, this event aims to encourage young women to pursue scientific studies by overcoming socio-cultural barriers, and demonstrating the quality of scientific careers.

Organised by the Women’s Forum, with the support of European Schoolnet, this project also involves Orange, L’Oreal Fondation d'Entreprise, Microsoft, Accenture, Areva, GDF Suez, Intel, Lenovo, Cisco, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Thales, Total and the city of Deauville.

European Schoolnet put together a group of 12 girls aged from 15 to 18 years old at upper secondary level. Coming from UK (Newsteadwood school for girls, South-east London), Germany (Gymnasium Isernhagen, Hannover) and Austria (BG/BRG Wels), the girls were selected for their high academic achievement and had a variety of backgrounds in economics, science and maths.

Through the Sci-tech Girls Day, female students had the chance to meet women renowned for their remarkable training and career paths in the fields of science and technology as well as other girls of their age from schools in Deauville and Paris.

How to become a female scientist?

The day started with a film showing a welcome message from Claudie Haigneré, a scientist and the first French woman to travel in space, followed by conference debates between role models and selected girls around three topics: contribution of science to the future, career opportunities and life/work balance.

The young women expressed their worries and apprehension about the idea to start scientific or technological studies and undertake careers in that field:

“I am currently in a scientific section at school and I really like it but I am not sure I will continue in this direction because I think higher scientific studies are too competitive and complex“, said one participant from France.

Another young student also explained her expectations from the Sci Tech Girls day:
“I am really motivated to undertake a career as engineer but I am not sure it is reconcilable with my desire to have a large family. I’m looking forward to learn more about the way female scientist reconcile their private life and their career and if they manage to succeed in both areas.” 

The debate was an occasion for the young women to ask questions such as

  • Why are girls needed in the scientific sector?
  • What is the role of women in helping science evolve and contribute to a more sustainable society?
  • What should be done to make employers mentalities evolve as regards women employees?
  • As a woman founder of a company what measures have you taken to make it easier to reconcile your private life and your professional one? What is the impact on your employees?

Round table discussions with the role models

In the afternoon, roundtables were organised to enable young women to talk directly with the role models. Among the role models were Araxi Urrutia, (Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow and L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Fellow), Sally Buberman (laureate of the Imagine Cup, the world’s premier student technology competition organized by Microsoft), Marie Hélène Therre (President of the French association of Women Engineers), Cécile Dubrovin (Programmes Director at Thales) and Katheryn Corich (Founder and Director of Sysdoc).

The Sci-Tech Girls day is a unique opportunity for the participants to share their views and to discover new opportunities in science and technology. The event offers role models for the girls and shows them options instead of limitations at an important time in their lives when they begin to think seriously about their identities, higher education and career opportunities.

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