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Home » past_events » WiTT Members’ Dinner with Professor Averil Macdonald: STEM: Not for People Like Me?

When it comes to encouraging women into science, technology and engineering, we just haven’t got the messaging right. Most girls decide that jobs and careers in science are “not for people like me.”

At this special WiTT members-only dinner Averil Macdonald, Professor of Science Engagement, Diversity lead for nine University physics departments in the South East of England (SEPnet), explained why STEM outreach and engagement activities have a limited impact on girls and other young people who are under-represented in the STEM workforce.

women in stem 2

She discussed her recent report for WISE, sponsored by Network Rail, which recommends a fresh approach — focusing on the types of people who succeed in science, technology and engineering — using adjectives to describe their personalities and aptitudes, rather than the jobs themselves (see the graphic below).

WISE Campaign People Like Me

This approach is now part of the PEOPLE LIKE ME initiative, which aims to help girls see themselves working happily and successfully in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM). Please see the link below for more information, and for teaching materials produced by WISE. Professor Macdonald encouraged our attendees to spread the word on the campaign, especially among teachers, and to put themselves forward as role models.


This event was part of a new series of dinner talks we’re running for WiTT annual and corporate members only. For more information on future events, please email info@wittgroup.org


About Professor Averil Macdonald

Averil Macdonald

   Averil Macdonald is Professor of Science Engagement based at the University of Southampton; Diversity lead for nine University physics departments in the South East of England (SEPnet) and a member of the WISE Board. She previously held the Chair in Science Engagement at the University of Reading between 1996 to 2014.

She began her career teaching Physics in secondary schools before taking a career break, studying part time for an MA then a PhD and becoming a part time lecturer in the Physics department at the University of Reading. She has co-authored over 20 school textbooks, produced a wide range of free teaching resources for schools and is well known for pioneering Science Outreach through a wide range of projects designed to show people the fascination and careers opportunities of Science.

In 2002/3, Averil toured the UK giving the Institute of Physics Schools and Colleges Lecture and has since given this lecture to over 85,000 people including audiences at the Royal Institution and the Royal Society in London, the Cheltenham Science Festival and the Brighton Science Festival. She has appeared many times on television and radio including Scrapheap Challenge, The Eleven O’clock Show and Vanessa and is the BBC Radio Berkshire Resident Scientist.

Averil is Chair of the Expert Group for Women in Science reporting to BIS on the success of the Government’s Strategy for Women in Science. She is a Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, the National Media Museum and the National Railway Museum and sits on the Science and Technology Facilities Council Advisory Panel for Science in Society, the Council of the Institute of Physics, is the UK representative on the European Physical Society Forum for Physics in Society and is also a Director of the Cheltenham Festivals.

She has received numerous accolades including the IoP International Bragg Medal and Prize 1999; Royal Society Millennium Award; Women of Outstanding Achievement in Science 2007; Plastics Industry Award for Personal Contribution to the Industry 2007 and an Honorary Doctorate from University of York 2010.


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