International Day of Women and Girls in Science

On 11th February, we recognise the contribution of women and girls in science and technology. The day is about promoting not only the workforce as a whole but the invaluable role that women play in the world of science.

Healthcare Science is critical, not only for the delivery of current healthcare, but also to develop innovative tests and treatments for the future, in light of scientific discovery and the evolving needs of patients and carers. 80% of all diagnoses made are underpinned by the Healthcare Science workforce. The aim of Healthcare Scientists is to improve the health and well-being of patients and the public by practising alongside doctors, nurses, and other health and social care professionals.

Patricia le Rolland is the Regulation Board and HCS Registration Council Chair, acting as a Lay person working with healthcare science and scientists. “Healthcare science is a diverse and broad community of knowledge, skills and professional lives. While the traditional view of a scientist is a man in a white coat in a lab, my experience is that healthcare science is a wonderful example of an important contribution to global knowledge and research that is increasingly led by women as well as men. The challenge as a lay woman involved in regulation in healthcare science professions is to keep pace with the changes and developments that impact positively on people’s health”.

UK Statistics show that although the percentage of female graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields is gradually increasing, females represent just 22% of the STEM workforce, with computer sciences, engineering and technology fields showing the greatest imbalance. However, it is encouraging to note that physical science related degrees have seen a year on year increase, confirming that the hard work and effort in inspiring our school leavers is worthwhile. The number of females studying science subjects now outnumbers males by 50.3% to 49.7%. (STEM Women, September 26, 2019).

The single biggest group of scientists in the UK are those working in the NHS. Approximately 50,000 NHS Healthcare scientists work in over 50 different disciplines. By encouraging our school leavers to enter undergraduate and graduate Healthcare Science Apprenticeships and our graduates to enter Scientific and Higher Scientific Training programmes, we can continue this fantastic growth of female scientists. They will enter the UK Healthcare Science Workforce with new and innovative ideas to help push the clinical boundaries and address many of the challenges that lie ahead.

Lynne Smith MBE is a Clinical Scientist in GI Physiology and is currently STP Programme Lead for AHCS, is a member of the AHCS Governance and Scrutiny Committee and is an equivalence assessor for STP and HSST. “I have worked in healthcare science from the moment I left school to the day I retired. I have been lucky enough to work with some of the most brilliant healthcare scientists operating at all levels and in most of the healthcare science disciplines. The most satisfying change during my career is that the academic level now better reflects the job roles and our scope of practice, therefore making the playing field more level in terms of gender. It took a very long time to achieve that parity particularly in terms of the high-level career opportunities and it is so important that we continue to inspire and encourage women to enter healthcare science”.

If you are considering a career in Healthcare Science, this page provides some great information about the variety of Healthcare Science roles and the different routes to getting to them.