Session 29: Making it as a woman in STEM – a visit from Dr Clara Barker

One of the key issues that the Go_Girl project aims to shed light on is the lack of women pursuing STEM study and careers. Despite the growing amount of research that explores this problem, we need to delve deeper into how class, race, sexuality and (dis)ability intersect with gender to multiply the disadvantage that some young women can face in accessing STEM-related opportunities.

women in STEM

From: XKCD

Today the Go_Girl team was lucky to receive a visit by Dr Barker, who has faced many barriers throughout her career in STEM, but who has also fought to overcome and challenge these obstacles.  She currently manages the Centre for Applied Superconductivity and has been awarded a prestigious Point of Light award by the Prime Minister’s office, recognising her work for the LGBT+ community. Dr Barker, who identifies as a trans-female, came in to talk to us about her journey from school to Oxford University.

dr clara barker

In the open and honest conversation, she highlighted how she first felt like school really wasn’t for her. Yet she persevered, completing first a foundation degree and then going on to become a professional of all things plasma in engineering. She spoke of the struggles she faced in her transition, and the continuing struggles she sees all women face in STEM fields. She also pointed out that where you come from, or how you identify, you should never get in the way of following your dreams. The hard work you do is what should set you apart.

We were so inspired by Dr Barker’s talk. In particular, some of the group who identify as members of the LGBT+ community themselves thanked her for giving them a voice. With everyone still processing everything that Dr Barker had said, it took a little longer than usual to get into our group work. However, soon we were back into the swing of things, and motivated to follow in her footsteps and keep pushing the barriers to STEM down! The time seems to be flying by, and the final presentations are fast approaching. We can’t wait to show you all the fantastic work that the team has been doing over the course of the programme.

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