Climate scientist returns to school to urge girls to pursue STEM

Dr Siobhan Gardiner returned to Eastbourne College to unveil a plaque commemorating her achievements and encourage female pupils to take STEM subjects

An award-winning climate expert has returned to Eastbourne College to encourage girls to ignore stereotypes and pursue a career in STEM.

Dr Siobhan Gardiner, who now works at Deloitte, returned to the East Sussex school to unveil a Purple Plaque from Innovate UK to commemorate her achievement as a winner in the agency’s Women in Innovation awards.

Gardiner attended the co-educational independent school from 2003 to 2008 and went on to study a degree in biochemistry, and then sustainability as a PhD. Over the years, Gardiner has worked in climate justice, wildlife conservation, carbon capture and smart agriculture.

She is currently a director in Deloitte’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) practice and has won many awards for her devotion to sustainability.

Innovate UK’s purple plaques, awarded only to women, are a twist on the UK’s blue plaque scheme, as only 14% of blue plaques celebrate the achievements of women.

There have been moments during my career where I’ve been told ‘You don’t look like a scientist’ – Dr Siobhan Gardiner

The unveiling of the plaque took place on 11 February in celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Gardiner ran a workshop and gave a talk to female pupils about obstacles she faced during her career and what can be done to tackle the gender gap and support girls going into STEM.

Gardiner said: “There has been significant progress for underrepresented groups in STEM professions, but there is still work to do in tackling the pay gap and supporting opportunities for career progression. Being a girl, and enjoying science at school, it was often assumed that I would seek to go into medicine or other healthcare professions.

“Some stereotypes remain – if you ask the question ‘What does a scientist look like?’, you might well imagine a comic-book style older man with wild hair in a lab coat and goggles.

“There have been moments during my career where I’ve been told ‘You don’t look like a scientist’. Role models are really important. It’s about representation, outreach and an understanding of different career paths – this is key to building that diversity of thought, both in schools and at home,” she continued.

Gardiner stressed the importance of schools educating pupils on the variety of STEM careers, both in the classroom and through a careers service.

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