Warrington firms urge girls to open their minds to science careers

Great Sankey High School pupils see how water is tested

A group of Warrington employers is marking International Women’s Day this Friday (March 8) by helping to soften the male image associated with jobs in science and engineering.

Water firm United Utilities, supported by five other local employers, is co-hosting the event at its Lingley Mere HQ with Soroptomist International of Warrington.

The aim is to help try to banish misconceptions about working with tech for fifty girls from Great Sankey High School. 

The girls will spend the day with young women and men who have chosen careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, as well as trying out fun activities using AI, augmented reality, laboratory experiments and problem-solving.

The day is the brainchild of United Utilities’ gender equality network, with support from Jaguar Land Rover, Liverpool Clinical Laboratories, Atkins, Wood Group and the Environment Agency.

Organiser Rachael Dingle, who trained as a marine biologist but now helps United Utilities improve river and bathing water quality, said: “The big question we’ll be asking them is whether they would be happy and successful in a technical career. Happy and successful are only words but they’re a different way of talking about these types of jobs. In the past recruiters have tended to use words like becoming a leader, which might appeal more to boys but could be off-putting for a lot of people.”  

It’s not the first time United Utilities’ work with local schools to boost interest in STEM subjects has reached out to girls. Earlier this year, two third of participants in the company’s annual technology contest for youngsters were female.

Helen Stones, Head of Science at Great Sankey High School, said the school already had a vibrant STEM agenda, but the event would help demonstrate how STEM subjects at GCSE level and beyond can translate into real jobs for women.  

“Last year the main message from the girls was that it opened their eyes to lots of careers that they had no idea were linked to STEM. Many of the younger girls see a science career as something simply stuck in a lab somewhere or being a vet or a doctor and nothing else really,” she said.

Added Rachael: “United Utilities has already changed a lot since I started work. Seventeen years ago I would be at meetings where I was the only woman in a room full of men. Now they are more balanced. That’s the way it should be, but we have further to go. One of the ways we can do this is by helping break down the barriers for girls who are interested in STEM.”

Soroptimist International of Warrington is co-hosting the event as part of their mission to inspire action and transform the lives of women and girls worldwide and has significant experience in showcasing STEM careers for women.

The latest event on March 8 links in with this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #BalanceforBetter calling for a more gender balanced world and also provides the students with an opportunity to meet female role models from across the North West.