There are so many amazing women in science, but often they don’t get the recognition they deserve. That’s why What I See are spending the month of July showcasing their achievements. It’s also why we love Women Rock Science – a blog set up to tell the stories of women and girls in science. We spoke to the founder, Hadiza Mohammed, about blogging, science, music and mirrors…
When and why did you set up Women Rock Science?
I set up women Rock Science in April of 2014. I was tired of seeing women scientists overlooked and wanted to create a fun, safe space to celebrate female achievements in STEM. Overtime the site has grown and grown and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to young girls directly, link with other groups and organisations and support teachers in their STEM teaching.
What else do you do with your time?
Besides working and studying in engineering my passion is music and dance. I enjoy writing songs, getting behind the piano and being in the studio. I also work as a professional dj at concerts and parties and even hosted a radio show on the BBC. I mainly focus on African music and it’s a great way to express my heritage and creativity and I have lots of fun doing it too.
What do you love most about science?
The world can seem so crazy and random and overwhelming, floods, disease, electricity, magnets, there’s a lot to grapple with. Science is the best tool, really the only tool we have to decipher exactly what is going on and understand how we can control it. The more we understand things scientifically the deeper we can understand the order and the beauty of the world. I love engineering specifically because we take scientific concepts and mould and manipulate them to create things that are useful for people.
If you could meet any female scientist, dead or alive, who would you choose?
I would love meet Caroline Herschel. She’s the 18th century celebrity singer turned astronomer who was the first woman to discover a comet. She lived a true Cinderella story except instead of being saved by magic and pumpkins she rescued herself with her brain. Caroline was both disabled and a woman and it’s a real tale of overcoming adversities and surpassing people’s expectations of you. I would love to meet her cause she just seems like an all-round cool lady and was passionate about science and music just like me.
How can we help diversify the STEM industries?
People who work in STEM design, build and create almost everything we use and touch daily and work to solve some of humanity’s most difficult problems. Every scientific advancement, every medical breakthrough and every technological achievement has been the result of individual or groups of innovators in STEM fields. A more diverse workforce will ensure STEM products, services and solutions better meet the needs of all users and all of society and not just a select few. Further if we’re serious about being on the cutting edge of innovation we need to make sure we’re drawing from as wide a talent and experience pool as possible.
The biggest way we can make a change is to invest and believe in our young people, all different types of young people from all different walks of life. We need to truly speak to them in a way that they will understand and that actually relates to their lives. Further, we need to diversify the content and images they consume daily. In doing this we can provide figures and role models that each young person has the opportunity to identify with and foster an atmosphere of harmony and respect. Studies indicate that just putting up one poster of a female role model in the classroom can improve the performance and self-esteem of girls in the class and increase fairness between the genders.
What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
The biggest risk I’ve ever taken was deciding to do my undergraduate civil engineering research thesis on feminism and toilets. My class was virtually all male so they all thought I was either crazy or stupid. I was fortunate enough to find a thesis supervisor who believed in my project and its now to be published in an academic journal.
Toilets, feminism and engineering don’t seem to be linked but actually toilets are one of the greatest barometers for measuring civility and wellbeing in a society and there is a distinct lack of toilets for women both in this country and the world over. It’s a real nightmare, that’s why we’re always queuing, and the problem has been allowed to go on for so long because most sanitary designers are men and they don’t have a good grasp of female needs. Again, this is why diversity in STEM is so important
What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Someone who’s still figuring it out, following her passions and hopefully helping people in a meaningful way.
Thanks so much to Hadiza for sharing her story, and for her dedication to highlighting women in science and the incredible discoveries they have made. You can explore the blog at Women Rock Science (warning – it’s addictive!) and share your STEM stories with us in the comments below or on Twitter.