I just realised I hadn’t posted in a while! I have been busy moving house and setting up my new “HQ” in the very spacious Bristol Barbie Dream House (as named by Harriet and I). My research is going well, we have harvested our last experiment and I have begun planting some soybean trials!
Last week on 8th March 2017 it was International Women’s Day. I have personally experienced sexism not only within the different industries I have worked in, but also in everyday life.
I understand that my own experience is incomparable to the discrimination some women face around the world. Through advocating women’s rights in science, outdoor adventure and scuba diving in the UK, I hope to put forward my ideas and beliefs to others. I don’t believe women are better than men, but that we should all be seen as equal – it should just be the “best person” for the job, regardless of gender.
I have heard many murmurs about how it is unfair that women have so many positive groups helping them achieve their dreams. However, I don’t think we would need them if these activities were not gender biased. They are essential. They do not just enable today’s pioneering women, but they also assist others in taking part and inspire the younger generation.
Personally, International Women’s Day is a celebration of the positive changes that have occurred so far. However, it also acts as a reminder that we must continue to promote women’s rights to achieve equality.
My parents brought me up to believe that I could do anything (thanks Mum and Dad). This belief wasn’t born out of nowhere. I was shown inspirational women, all feminists in their own way, from an early age. These role models have helped shape who I have become today. I decided to compile a list of the top five women who have inspired me the most whilst growing up.
1. Beatrix Potter (28th July 1866 - 22nd December 1943)
Beatrix Potter wrote ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ in 1902. Her children’s books and the animal creatures they contain were my favourite whilst growing up. Jemima Puddleduck was a firm favourite! However, she was also a scientific illustrator. Prior to the children’s books she had developed her own theory on how fungi spores reproduced. She wrote a paper ‘On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae’. Sadly, at the time women could not attend Linnean Society meetings to present their work. It received little attention and her paper has since been lost. Thankfully, many of her beautiful illustrations and diagrams of funghi have been preserved. On my last trip up to the Lake District last year my sister and I were fortunate to explore a whole gallery of them – they were incredible! She sadly died on 22nd December 1943, however she left her fifteen farms and 4000 acres of Lake District countryside to the National Trust. This gift has help preserve and protect this beautiful area to this day. When you next go on a walk up there – remember that your wanderings are possible because of this amazing person!
2. Dame Ellen MacArthur (8th July 1976)
A successful solo long-distance yachtswoman. When I was 14 I watched her break the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe on 7th February 2005. Her dedication and resilience were unlike anything I had seen before! Today she focuses her efforts on the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, a charity enabling young people aged between 8 and 24 to go sailing to help them regain their confidence following cancer, leukaemia and other serious illnesses. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is also working towards a circular economy through a series of initiatives inspired by her sailing.
3. Rosalind Franklin (25th July, 1920 – 16th April, 1958)
Was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer. I first came across her story when I was 17 years old, during my sixth A level biology course. Her work massively contributed to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal and graphite. During her time in the 1950s at King’s College, London working on DNA, she clashed with researcher Maurice Wilkins – who had assumed she was his assistant, not his equal. Their relationship got worse until Wilkins shared Franklin’s research with James Watson and Francis Crick, their competitors at Cambridge University. Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. Rosalind Franklin continued work on viruses after the furore, however she died in 1958, aged 37. She has since been recognised for her work by academia. I found the struggle she went through compelling – I also found DNA fascinating!
4. Dr Sylvia Earle (30th August, 1935)
I think I have watched the documentary ‘Mission Blue’ at least ten times now! Dr Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, diver, explorer, author and lecturer. She was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In 1998 she became a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and was named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet. The scuba diving and submersible exploration that Sylvia has been a part of is truly inspirational. However, her personality and attitude over the oceans demise was really what struck me. Mission Blue, is now aiming to set up more ‘hope spots’ around the world – protecting more of the ocean than we do today.
5. Sally Tingey (23rd February, 1962)
My Mum has taught me a lot about what it means to be a strong person. As a teacher and lecturer she has had a positive impact on so many people’s lives. She has helped me through multiple difficult times and together with the rest of my family it always is fine in the end. My Mum is an avid supporter of all my science work – she even proof-reads essays and bits of writing for me (total grammar boff). Together with my Dad they have helped show me what amazing things can be done with a bit of hard work. Thanks Mum, and Happy Mothers Day in just over a week!