Inspirational women in STEM
The #MySTEMJourney campaign is drawing to a close, and International Women’s Day is coming soon. The day is celebrated globally and is held on Sunday 08 March this year. It’s an opportunity to share stories to celebrate the achievements of women, for a gender-equal world.
In light of these campaigns we spoke to two of our graduates working within STEM fields, Ahsana Nabilah Choudhury and Mimi Nwosu, who have shared their career journey, achievements and advice for younger generations considering a career in STEM.
Ahsana Nabilah Choudhury, BSc Hons Computing, 2017
Mimi Nwosu, Beng Hons Civil Engineering, 2018
Ahsana graduated from University of Portsmouth in 2017 with a BSc Hons in Computing and now works for multinational investment bank J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. as a Software Engineer.
Outside of work, Ahsana runs a successful beauty and tech blog which has received global attention, and also spends time working towards greater technology visibility across the south coast by running community events. Ahsana is also a strong advocate for women in STEM, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion within the field. She says:
“I was just 16 when I started teaching myself how to code in the summer of 2010. I loved blogging and how you could connect with others through the power of literature. I would play around on Tumblr and taught myself basic web development skills, creating custom themes for my blog then showcasing the latest creations to friends for feedback.
Unbeknownst to me, I was developing the fundamental skills required for a technologist: Innovation, logical problem solving and analysis, to name a few. What I perceived as a fun activity every evening after college would later lead to me to my career.
Whilst looking for what to study at University, I realised I had a strong affinity for technology. I knew in my heart it was something I wanted to continue studying. I found myself gravitating towards it because the course felt like me: fun, creative and it’s what I had grown up with.
I have always enjoyed writing and alongside my current role, I also run a beauty and tech blog. When I started the blog, I wanted to bridge the gap between two subject areas: beauty and tech. The two ideals could not be more different. I find it really empowering challenging gender stereotypes which perpetuates individuals cannot enjoy feminine interests and technology.
In 2018, it was reported that women only represented 16% of the UK workforce within IT professionals roles (stemwomen.co.uk, September 2019). There is more work to be done to encourage women to opt into a technology-based career.
Computer Science fields show the largest gender imbalances from studying to the workplace. I think we must continue to highlight the visibility of opportunities within the technology workforce for women by hosting events and inviting notable industrial figures, representative of these diverse backgrounds. We can help inspire women and give them the subtle nudge they may require to take a chance, be kind to themselves and believe that they belong.
To all females considering studying STEM or working within these fields, do not let the fear or doubt stop you from achieving what you truly want. Being in a space where you are considered a minority may often feel like imposter syndrome but, instead, let it drive your desire to increase visibility. We need to be the representation we seek, and our community will soon join us.”
Mimi currently works as a Materials Engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine after graduating in 2018 with a Beng (Hons) degree in Civil Engineering.
She has recently been shortlisted for the Equal Engineers - Engineering Talent Awards 2020 for the Engineering Graduate of the Year Award. She says:
“Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t meet the A-level grades needed. I was accepted to another university through clearing and studied a course I wasn’t interested in. Then, through a chance encounter, I met a friend who studied Civil Engineering who invited me to his lecture; I fell in love with the course.
I decided to move to the University of Portsmouth to study Civil Engineering. I loved how knowledgable, supportive and connected to the industry the lecturers were. The open-door policy made it easy for me to ask for help.
I did notice a gender gap during my studies; however, everyone was extremely supportive, it was like a big family. Once I started my working career the gender gap was more obvious, in a lot of spaces I am still the only woman but, this will never stop me from learning from my colleagues and achieving my goals.
Due to this, I have made one of my objectives alongside my role as an engineer to showcase careers in engineering and construction to young women. I am a STEM Ambassador and a role model for various organisations where I travel around the UK sharing my story and showcasing careers in STEM. We need to encourage young women into STEM careers: We are capable and can do anything we put our minds to.
It’s okay to like maths, physics, biology, chemistry and design or technology and there are so many careers that can suit those interests. We need more people with a range of STEM careers being ambassadors and going into schools and talking about their roles and journey.
If I were to offer advice to females interested in STEM subjects, I would recommend the following: Do your research about routes available, ask questions and know current affairs and new technology within your industry. Grasp and create your own opportunities, gain experience within your field and set goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Most importantly, be bold, brave and know that it is okay to fail because that could be the start of a new adventure!
I have the opportunity to constantly learn on-site and in the office within my current role. It’s great seeing your designs come to life too. I really want to help build for a sustainable future, and I believe materials engineering and science will pioneer this. I’m currently working towards a Chartered Engineer status (CEng) and hopefully I will be within five years.”
Read articles from alumni guest bloggers, and find out about Portsmouth reunions, alumni events and awards.