The United Nations has declared that 11th February of every year should be observed as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. That's this Saturday! The UN believes that equal access for women to and participation in Science and Technology is essential if it is to achieve gender equality, as defined in "Goal Five" of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development goals. I've got no doubt that is true, and it's a truly noble reason to think about - and celebrate - the role that women play in our own university environment. Let's do that this Saturday, and every year at this time. Women are disadvantaged by many aspects of our society, and it's impossible to argue that this disadvantage does not play out in higher education, including right here at our University. It's a challenge - we clearly see that there is a problem, but our response is typically based on supposition, or on faith. Actions we have taken historically have frequently been found ineffective, or at best have a modest or a long-term effect. Meanwhile, we continue to lose out - personally, at our University, nationally, and globally - on much of the intellectual resource which should be available to us. It is slowing down our progress and inhibiting our ability to find solutions to the huge challenges faced by the human race. It's an urgent problem that we need to think about every day - not just the 11th February!
But that's not the reason I am writing this post. I want to pay tribute to the fantastic women who we have at our University who are contributing to addressing this problem in addition to the "day job". At one end of the spectrum, three undergraduate women in the Department of Physics recently decided - on their own initiative - to form a "Bath Network for Women in Physics". Rachel, Mary and Rebecca not only conceived the idea and took it through to launch, but they engaged the support of academic staff to ensure that the Network is sustainable and effective. Towards the other end, I heard this evening that Professor Semali Perera, Department of Chemical Engineering, has been named the winner of the Academic Award in the UK’s biggest programme championing women in technology, the 2017 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. It's a fantastic accolade recognising her remarkable contributions to technology. Congratulations Semali!
These two examples are chosen here because they are current - both coming to my attention over just the last few weeks. There are numerous other examples of remarkable women right across our community, and at the full range of career stages. I'm sure that if you have read this far, you would be able to identify examples of your own. I believe that we should be exceptionally proud of the contribution women at our university are making addressing the challenge. It can't be easy, when you are simultaneously playing on an un-level surface.