Some 30 girls in their first year at secondary school visited the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences for the annual Girls’ Day, held this year on 14 April. The programme included a lecture on whole-brain synchronization in Tibetan monks, visits to the Science LinX exhibition and the Blaauw Observatory and an opportunity to meet female scientists.
This week saw the publication of a list of the 50 leading women in field of technology in the Netherlands
. It is an inspiring list for young women, who thankfully are increasingly likely to choose a career in technology, the sciences or IT. The number of women studying technical subjects at university increased by 1.5% between 2012 and 2014, so things are definitely heading in the right direction. But it still seems that much female talent is being wasted, in part because some girls are not familiar with such careers.
The annual Girls’ Day is a response to this. It is an initiative of VHTO: National Expert Organisation on Girls/Women and Science/Technology, and was this year held on 14 April. The day offers an opportunity for young girls to come into contact with science, technology and IT. It is a national event in which the University of Groningen’s Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences is proud to participate.
The afternoon kicked of in the Bernoulliborg building, where the participants – all girls in their first year at secondary school – attended a lecture by Marieke van Vugt on Tibetan monks and whole-brain synchronization. It was a challenging lecture, but don’t make the mistake of underestimating girls! Naina (12) found it really interesting to hear about what happens inside the monks’ heads, as did her friends. But would she like to work as a researcher herself? ‘No, I want to become a lawyer’.
After the lecture, it was time for a visit to the Science LinX
exhibition and the Blaauw Observatory. Sophie (12) enjoyed the observatory the best, and now thinks she might want to study astronomy in the future. Stephanie (13) revealed herself to be a true scientist during the Science LinX exhibition: ‘I love taking things apart, you find out all kinds of things that way. I just really enjoy discovering new things’. The day concluded with the pupils meeting female researchers.
There was a lot of giggling, as is to be expected, but between the laughing and chatting most of the visitors had a great time; ‘awesome’, ‘cool’ and ‘epic’ were the most frequently heard words. And what was most awesome about this Girls’ Day? The ladies agreed unanimously: the experiments, getting stuck in yourself. But was that because they were doing instead of listening, or because they enjoy finding things out? That question brought about new differences in opinion.
Mission accomplished? It would seem so. The day offered many girls the chance to discover what you can do if you study science or technology, and many were enthusiastic about it. The aim of Girls’ Day is to introduce girls to technology and make them more aware of the careers and degree programmes available in what has traditionally been a very male-dominated sector, but also to show them that it is absolutely normal for women to study and work in that discipline.
All that remains is to repeat one piece of advice from ‘power lady’ Neelie Kroes, who opened Girls’ Day this year: ‘If we keep feeding these girls’ curiosity and get to know their world, their way of thinking, then we can change the gender imbalance in this area and involve women in the developments of the future. There is so much talent here, so much creativity and potential.’
[ Written by Sterre Koops ]
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