The UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science is 11th February this year. The day draws attention to the significant gender gap which persists at all levels of STEM disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in high education, they are still underrepresented in these fields.  

All this week, from Monday through to Sunday, Fawcett will be showcasing women who are #SmashingStereotypes through their work in our #ShakeUpSTEM guest series. 

Together we can #ShakeUpSTEM!

Our #ShakeUpSTEM advocate today is Abiola Renee, founder of skin library, a Cosmetic Scientist in training and photographer. She tweets at: @AbiolaRenee

“A creative in a lab coat”

The term first occurred to me as an antidote to a deceptively easy question: “What do you do?” After spending a few minutes listing my job titles; CEO, Photographer, Cosmetic Scientist (in training) and Student, I became self-conscious of how pretentious it all sounded.

It was difficult to remove a few of my ‘titles’ without doing a disservice to myself and my abilities. Kind of like when you have a whole load of different skills to add to your Instagram bio but not enough characters to include them all. That sort of thing.

I had always assumed that being a STEM student would be challenging, especially when you also have strong passions that lie outside the sector. It might feel as if you’re leading a double life. For me, this passion was photography. As the two aren’t known to be particularly aligned, I was flummoxed as to how I could pursue both, and both successfully. However, embarking on my journey to becoming a cosmetic scientist has made me realise that both industries contain similarities. Similarities that mean they intertwine quite seamlessly. There is a science to the process of clothing design, just as there is creativity in every STEM student’s initial hypothesis.

In the words of David Featherstone, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Science and art are the same thing “They are both human attempts to understand and describe the world around us.”

I agree with this position. My experience has taught me that a creative in a lab coat is no different from a creative using a traditionally creative medium such as a pen, paint brush or even a lens, as I do. The only difference is our method to understanding the world around us.

In the job market the term creative has become an increasingly popular title amongst millennials. But before it was an informal noun to describe those in the advertising and creative industries, it was mostly used as an adjective. E.g. The tendency to “create things, or having the ability to create; often, excellently, in a novel fashion, or any or all of these.” The dictionary definition suggests that STEM students are and have always been creative and it’s that definition that lines up with the breadth of possibilities that I experience daily. We STEM students solve real life solutions on a daily basis, imagining countless of methods to produce solutions to our problems. Our modes of expression are ways of creating, whether those modes are statistical analysis or a rheology graph on fluid.

By Abiola Renee

Follow the rest our #ShakeUpSTEM guest series on the Fawcett blog


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