2019 WISE Rising Star Award Winner

Jackie Bell

Teaching Fellow in Equality, Diversity, Outreach and Public Engagement at Imperial College

What three words sum up your STEM journey so far?

Unexpected, Exciting and Diverse

Who/what inspired you to join the STEM sector?

When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. I didn’t know how to get there, but I loved school and I loved learning. I guess it was my own passion for learning that led me down the STEM path and ultimately landed me a STEM career.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

You should never change your personality or values to ‘fit in’ at work. Be true to yourself and what you believe in and if the organisation is not right for you then it is absolutely okay to move on. Build up a strong support network (WISE can definitely help with this!) and find an employer that respects and values you.

What advice would you give to women who are #1ofTheMillion working in STEM today?

I’m not sure about advice, but I would definitely thank our #1ofTheMillion women in STEM for being the role models our young girls (and boys!) need to inspire them to take up STEM careers in the future.

What advice would you give to women and girls to encourage them to join the STEM sector?

At school, I was warned that studying STEM-only subjects at A-level would be ‘too hard’ for someone like me (a girl). If you are given this advice, please ignore it. The STEM sector is ever-changing, and that is what makes it so exciting to be part of! Working in STEM you have a real shot at making a difference in this world – developing new technologies to improve the quality of life for millions of people – so if you’re passionate about making a change then the STEM sector definitely has a place for you!

Given the unique challenges we face due to COVID-19, how can we keep gender balance and diversity on the agenda?

COVID-19 and its effects globally have shed light on what many of us already knew – that there is a digital gender divide that is only getting bigger. Inherited biases, lack of access, and sociocultural ‘norms’ need to change, and women need to be better included in our now very-much digital world.

What can organisations do to increase/inspire more women into STEM?

Organisations need to first reflect upon and address their own gender diversity before reaching out to schools and showing children what it is that the organisation actually does, and more importantly, how the children can contribute. Go out and show people how you’re changing the world, and when they see diversity and inclusion as a natural component of what you do, women and minority groups will want to work for/with you.

What do you envision for the STEM sector over the next 20 years?

We are seeing a dramatic change in how we use technology in our daily lives. I envision that with the increase in learning and working remotely, coupled with the medical advancements we are seeing in a world working together to fight a threat to humanity, more young people will become inspired by this and sectors will start looking towards a more inclusive, collaborative and compassionate way of working, in both their practice and in the technology they go on to develop.

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