In a few short months I will be standing on a wooden box shouting about immunology to anyone lucky enough to walk past me. Don’t worry, I’m not carefully planning a mid-PhD breakdown, I’m taking part in Soapbox Science. Soapbox Science puts female scientists on a platform for an hour, speaker’s corner style, to talk about their work. It’s about getting successful female scientists out there to challenge stereotypes and inspire the next generation. It’s also a great opportunity to engage the unsuspecting public with research on a Saturday afternoon. From a single event in London 5 years ago, Soapbox has grown to events across the country. This year there will even be a Soapbox event in Australia. I’ll be taking part in the Manchester event on 23rd July.
I got my first taste of the excitement of Soapbox last Friday, when I headed down to ZSL London Zoo for a Soapbox training weekend. We heard from the Soapbox founders and got some tips on engaging an audience from comedian Robin Ince (very exciting as an Infinite Monkey Cage fan). For me the highlight of the day was the chance to share ideas with the other speakers. The diversity of women present, at all stages of career and family life, was inspiring for an early career researcher like me. Even more inspiring was the range of scientific fields represented, with talk topics ranging from 3D printing on the moon, to the science of ice cream, from climate change to cancer biology. With all these differences we have a common goal, to get the public excited about our science and show what female scientists are acheiving. A survey last year showed that 67% of Europeans asked thought that women do not possess the required capabilities in order to access high-level scientific positions (1). In short, a lot of people still think that women aren’t suited to be great scientists. By getting up in public and speaking about what we do we’re hoping to change that perception, and have some fun along the way. So come along to an event this summer and see me or any of the other speakers in action, or better yet, sign up as a volunteer and get involved!
If you’d like to know more, here’s the Soapbox Science website.