Women in STEM, Visibility Matters

Malaysia's very own astrophysicist

According to data from the UN Scientific Education and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), fewer than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and only 30% of female students select STEM-related fields in higher education.

Nevertheless, history is full of women who made enormous contributions to the field of science, from Marie Curie’s research in radioactivity and Rosalind Franklin’s work in discovering DNA, to Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, Emerita Professor Tan Sri Dr Mazlan Othman who pioneered the country’s participation in space exploration.

To increase the involvement of young girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, otherwise known as, STEM, Associate Professor Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Dr Oon Chern Ein conveyed the importance of having female role models to look up to.

“When women in the field face challenges, we tend to look for role models who have gone through similar situations and get their advice so that we get inspired to move forward in our careers”, said Dr. Oon who has received numerous awards for her work on molecular targeted therapy in cancer, including the prestigious L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science National Fellowship in 2015.

The webinar which featured women role models in STEM to highlight career opportunities from STEM education, an one-hour live session was moderated by Tan Su Lin, co-founder of SMC Malaysia, and was jointly organised by the British Council, Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia and The Petri Dish.

It was also held to launch the British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM to study a master’s degree, or an early academic fellowship, in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics programme at a leading UK university.

Debbie Ann Loh, the current STEM scholar, states that when young women enter STEM, they become symbols of empowerment to the upcoming generation.

A total of 15 scholars including four from Malaysia travelled to the UK to pursue their master’s degrees in STEM subjects as part of the first Scholarships for Women in STEM cohort in 2021.

This year, for the second year running, there will be double the number of scholarships on offer in South East Asia. A total of 29 scholarships from six UK universities are available for aspiring scholars from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Awardees will have access to economic support, including tuition fees, stipends, travel costs, visas, health coverage fees and special support for mothers.

To learn more information on the Women in STEM scholarships programme, please visit: https://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-abroad/in-uk/scholarship-women-stem

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