The alarm went off at 8.00am which, although unusual for a Saturday, was not begrudged; it was the ScienceGrrl strategy consultation day. Today we would find out what people thought of us, what we should be doing and would start thinking seriously about our future. I knew we needed to ask people what they wanted from ScienceGrrl, but that morning, the thought of asking people face-to-face still felt scary. As I made my way through an eerily quiet central London, the usual worries surfaced. Would anyone turn up? Would the equipment work? Would we be coherent? Would we get useful input?
As the other ScienceGrrl committee members arrived with pastries, coffee and juice (choice of ‘bits’ and ‘no bits’) my nerves were settled- with such a lovely bunch of people, what could possibly go wrong? We talked calendar sales, outreach activities, bank accounts, regional chapters and of course the strategy consultation. We had a battle with the printer (which we lost), a mad dash in the rain to collect calendars, cakes, USB sticks and badges from Louise’s apartment, and we were ready.
As people started to arrive the atmosphere was mounting, people were introducing themselves and tucking into our fab ScienceGrrl-branded cakes, more chairs were needed and everyone squeezed in. We had school students, undergraduates, post grads, teachers, and a decent haul of ScienceGrrls. We were ready to go.
The discussion began with the history of ScienceGrrl, we talked about why we needed a strategy and the results of the online questionnaire. We then took it in turns to introduce ourselves and explain why we cared about ScienceGrrl. The variety of motivations was really moving, and it was refreshing to hear people talking so eloquently, sensibly and passionately about gender issues in science careers. By this point we were already well behind schedule. To make up time I took the executive decision to cut the next two items on the agenda (they can’t have been important), and we delved straight the juicy group discussions.
In the first topic we explored the ScienceGrrl vision. People were asked to discuss how they would finish the sentence “ScienceGrrl sees a world where…” and to identify what the barriers were to achieving this vision. While some people struggled to remain wholly on-topic (let’s blame it on the excitement) we got some great feedback. Some choice quotes include:
“ScienceGrrl sees a world where access to science education is not restricted by gender, race, class, sexuality or culture”
“ScienceGrrl sees a world unrestricted by stereotype”
“ScienceGrrl sees a world where female scientists are represented in the media”
Among the barriers, we identified: Culture in schools (particularly co-ed), childcare policies, lack of role models, culture of long hours, and a lack of good quality careers advice.
We then had a super-quick break for coffee, and moved swiftly onto the next discussion topic: ‘what can ScienceGrrl Do?’ As we gulped down our hot beverages, the conversation kept rolling on at pace. The ideas for ScienceGrrl seemed almost endless, they included: a mentoring programme, work experience, networking events, members forum, careers advice, awareness/ challenging stereotypes, delivering workshops, bringing people together … and the list goes on (and on, and on).
As we began to wrap up, the momentum of the conversation seemed to be reaching its peak. It was a shame to have to stop, but I heard people continuing to talk, and swaping contact details as we were packing up.
And then to the pub! In true ScienceGrrl fashion we ended up finishing the day chatting over a well deserved glass of red wine. Cheers!! We discussed the next steps for the strategy, what we should include, and who else we should talk to. Look out for the first draft of the strategy in the New Year; we want to hear what you think before we vote on it at the AGM in February.
Although the consultation day is over, the conversation hasn’t finished. You can join us on twitter or send us an email. We won’t stop wanting to talk about this stuff for a very long time.