Hopefully, with the help of groups like ScienceGrrl, this can change

Here’s the second of our guest blogs from a female A-level science student, Becky Maggs. Thanks very much to her for her honesty – we’re honoured that she’s found ScienceGrrl an encouragement and inspiration.

“There’s a lot of pressure for everyone at A-levels. This isn’t helped when you’re the only girl in a class full of boys. I’m eighteen, and taking maths, chemistry and physics, and I’m writing about what it’s like.

The reason I take these mainly male-dominated subjects is because I really enjoy them. And I mean really, like go to lectures outside school and tutor other students, like it. I think this is the one thing that kept me going where all my other female peers gave-up. I used to be in a 20-strong class, with 2 other girls. It’s now gone down to half that size, with only one girl left. Me. I wouldn’t say anyone was sexist as such, but I’m definitely treated differently than my male-counterparts.

I get congratulated a lot by women I meet, expressing their surprise, and a well-meaning ‘good luck’, which is less than reassuring. What’s even worse is when you hear this from people who’ve gone the same path as you, and who now work in unrelated areas. Like the school librarian for example. When taking out some school books, she said ‘it’s so nice to see a girl in science’. I made the compulsory noises and smiled. She then went on to tell me about how she did the same subjects. Some background on my librarian, she’s a moody woman who goes around telling people of her past opportunities. This is not how I want to end up! What does she aim to do, provide a role model for me?

I’ve also got to be a bit more careful about what say or do. I made a dirty joke the other day, and after a minute of silence, the whole class burst out laughing and the teacher said ‘Trust the only girl in the class to bring the tone down’. Then the next lesson, when doing a class experiment, a peer gave me something to clean, and someone else, rather loudly remarked ‘Have you actually just told the only girl in the class to do the cleaning up?’. Cue everyone turning round to gauge my reaction. This makes things difficult for me, as if I act too calmly about it, it will become routine, but if I over-react, I become the stressy girl. I just blushed and carried on. These are just examples of how things affect me, normally the physics class runs normally.

The main thing that gets me about these STEM subjects is that I know many girls who would do better than me in the subjects, and could easily be top of the class, and yet have chosen to do English and Humanities, where they haven’t actually graded as well. The girls who do take these subjects often drop out early on, despite the fact that they are getting good grades.

Hopefully, with the help of groups like ScienceGrrl, this can change”.