SoapBox Science is a new science-driven event coming to the streets of Stoke-on-Trent, Hanley, this July. The new initiative aims to encourage women of all backgrounds to sign up for STEM programs in the UK.
According to research conducted by the ‘WISE’ campaign, only 23% of women make up core STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforces in the UK.
Dimitra Blana, a science and technology lecturer at Keele University, decided to bring the SoapBox Science campaign to Stoke-on-Trent after speaking at their event in Leeds.
Blana said: “That’s when I thought, this is a great program, we need to bring it to Stoke-on-Trent.”
The new campaign hires volunteers who take to the streets and encourage people to see science as an exciting elective.
“The events involve female scientists standing on soap boxes in a public space. So, it could be a city centre, square, a park or a shopping area and just engaging with the public about the work they do in science.”
SoapBox Science is celebrating it’s ninth year of campaigning after being founded in 2010. The event is not only contained to the UK but also ventures across seas, stopping in Canada, Tanzania, Germany and many other countries all over the world.
“There’s two aims really. One is to promote female scientists and the other is just to get science into the streets,” she says, “So, to get it to someone who has maybe never met a scientist before or they don’t really feel like science is for them just to show that science is great.”
Dimitra joined SoapBox Science because, as a female engineer, she felt as if she didn’t see many females in her workplace.
“In a lot of areas of STEM, there’s a very low number of women. I’m a medical engineer and the promotion of the work to women is actually quite bad.
“I think in terms of engineering only 11 out of every 100 engineers in the UK is a woman. So, obviously it’s important to show women that engineering and science is something really great and creative and it should appeal to them.”
Dimitra, with the program, is trying to encourage new females to join STEM programs.
“Just go for it. Definitely. It’s really creative and fulfilling. Don’t feel like it’s just you surrounded by lots of men.
“There are a lot of women out there, especially in programs like SoapBox Science which are designed to bring all of us together. Get in contact with us.”
Last year, SoapBox Science ran 30 events around the world and was commended by the Prime Minister in 2015. The program was awarded a Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in June 2016.
Blana said: “I think the great thing about it is that it’s engaging. It’s focused on the unsuspecting public who are trying to do their shopping, or whatever.
“That’s the great thing, you can show that science is not separate to every day life and everyone can be part of it. “
Despite it being a female driven campaign, Dimitra explains how the campaign is not just exclusive to women, “Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of different volunteers at the event, not just the speakers and I’m hoping that some of them will be men.
“Obviously this event is for everyone. The idea is not to make it specifically for women. I’m hoping that we will have a diverse group of people, from different ethnic backgrounds and religions, so that people can see that science is for everyone.”
“Science isn’t and doesn’t have to be separate from everyday life, you don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate science it’s just fun and engaging.”
To sign up for the program, a volunteer would only have to access the website here, and keep an eye out for social media posts.