Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on the 8 March the Graphene Flagship’s Women in Graphene event drew a sell out crowd at University College London to hear from inspirational speakers and develop their professional network.
The day started with a talk from Professor Cinzia Casiraghi from the University of Manchester. Her talk, entitled Adventures of a Female Scientist in Flatland, gave the audience a glimpse into the hard work and determination she needed to succeed. Likening her research career to an iceberg, she spoke about how people see the success at the top, (she is a renowned academic), but not the hard work and sacrifices that lie beneath.
The second talk of the day was something a little different. The polar explorer Felicity Aston MBE spoke about her successful attempt to become the first woman to ski across Antarctica. This journey of 1744km took 59 days and gave her a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Felicity spoke with incredible passion and honesty about her journey. Her motto of ‘to keep on moving forward you just have to get out of the tent’ seemed to resonate with the audience.
The speed networking session held before lunch prompted everyone to start to make connections with the other attendees and the air of discussion continued throughout the rest of the day.
The day was rounded off by two more talks. Ellen Pugh from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) spoke about how they are creating and providing initiatives to improve women’s career progression. She spoke about the challenges still facing women in academia in the UK and how the Athena SWAN awards scheme, which the ECU administers and seeks to award universities and departments with the commitment to equality, is helping to change things for the better.
“It was wonderful to be in a room full of female scientists from eight different countries on international women’s day who were keen to progress their own careers and support other women in theirs.” Said Ellen “ECU works with higher education institutions and sector agencies to reduce structural barriers to career progression for women and it was wonderful to speak to such a receptive audience keen to learn about our work but also to hear from those who were already aware of it about the benefits of our Athena SWAN charter for them”.
In the final talk of the afternoon, bringing the industrial perspective to the day, we heard from Gaute Juliussen and the team from Graphitene. Speaking about the importance of diverse teams, Gaute outlined how Graphitene is trying to hire and retain a much more diverse workforce.
This successful day was brought to a close with a discussion centred around the professional experiences of the women in attendance and on what the Graphene Flagship can do to support women in graphene.
In feedback from the event one attendee said ‘It was just so great to be in a room with so many inspiring women who are all so motivated to help others succeed in a very challenging field.’
With further Women In Graphene events planned, including an evening reception coinciding with Graphene Week, (this year held in Greece in September) and a second Women In Graphene day due to be held in March 2018 in Sweden, the Graphene Flagship continues to demonstrate its support of Women In Graphene.