To mark British Science Week, girls urged to consider picking STEM careers by Derbyshire chemicals company

A Derbyshire chemicals company has been helping girls get stuck into science with the aim of boosting numbers of women working in the sector.


Dr Trish Kilsby, a chemist who works at Lubrizol - an additives company with a UK headquarters in Hazelwood near Belper - said while attitudes to women in science have undoubtedly improved over the years, there is still a long way to go to achieve equal representation.


British Science Week celebrates STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and runs from March 11-20. This year’s theme is ‘Smashing Stereotypes’.


Trish, who is Lubrizol’s regional technology manager for Europe and India, designs additives that go into lubricants for tractors and commercial vehicles – without which these machines would not function correctly.


She said: “Getting girls interested in pursuing science is something I’m really passionate about. I work in a very under-represented field. To be honest, there are a lot of meetings where I’m the only woman there. It would be nice not to be! In previous generations girls would do home economics rather than physics and chemistry. It’s really sad there’s still a little bit of that.


“My career in science has granted me so many opportunities and so many things that I would never have thought I would have done. I want other women to experience the same thing. My job has been such good fun. I’ve travelled round the world with it. And even if I chose to do something different, I have still got that background.”


Lubrizol employees are coming together to back British Science Week by reinforcing the messages of the campaign via its social media channels. Their support reflects the company’s continued efforts to drive up diversity as well as champion science itself, which underpins all of its work.


To do their bit to boost girls’ interest in STEM subjects ahead of picking their GCSEs, Trish joined other Lubrizol representatives for a special event at the University of Derby to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.


Lubrizol staff were helping year 8 girls explore the wonderful world of chemistry at the event, delivered in partnership with E4E, a Derby initiative which links employers with schools.


Trish, along with fellow Lubrizol employees Joy Bempong, Laura Barrie, Lucy Armstrong and Tim Hollingshurst, came along to answer questions from students about what a career in STEM entails. Girls were then challenged to show off their scientific skills by having a go at making a chemical product themselves, experimenting with the effectiveness of different types of ingredients such as petroleum jelly.


Trish said: “I think the day went brilliantly. It was really well organised. The interaction with the young women was fantastic. They came armed and prepared with questions.


“My job is incredibly varied, every single day. It’s getting better to work as a woman in STEM subjects. I no longer feel I’m not respected. It would just be great to see more representation for women. I want to give people the same enthusiasm and opportunities that I have had.”


Figures show that representation in STEM subjects is still disproportionately weighed towards men working in the sector. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) just over a third of STEM higher education students in the UK are women, while around a quarter of the country’s STEM graduates are female.


Another participant in the event, Tim Hollingshurst, global network delivery manager for Lubrizol, said: “I like getting involved in events like this which promote STEM subjects at GCSE level, particularly for girls. Engineering is still a very highly male orientated area. It’s all about trying to bring diversity of background and gender roles into this arena. It’s so important.”


For Tim, the quest to encourage girls into science has added importance as his daughter, Lucy, has been picking her own GCSE options – along with year 9 pupils across the UK.


He said his daughter liked nothing better than wiring up a plug or programming her own drones, and he would love to see her pursue her talents in technology and engineering.


He said: “I want my daughter to do whatever she wants to do in the future, and I certainly don’t want her to be limited because of her gender. It was important that the event at the University of Derby was for year 8 girls, who will be making their choices at GCSE next year. The team at Lubrizol wanted to inspire girls of this age to be strongly considering a future in science, a pathway which starts at GCSE.”

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