What’s it got to do with Soroptimists?
These aims chime with the Soroptimists’ commitment to to transform the lives of women and girls through education, empowerment and enabling them. They have long been concerned to open the doors to science, technology, engineering and maths for girls through a range of initiatives worldwide. Science underpins all engineering, and it is vital to encourage girls to develop an interest in science as a first step.
Local Action: Soroptimists
Closer to home, SI Nantwich and District established a hugely successful programme of events that took place in local primary and secondary schools every year during National Science Week over 15 years from 1995 to 2010. SETupSCIENCE was founded in 1995 by SI Nantwich and District and The Women’s Engineering Society under the auspices of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. I spoke to Dr Vi Pritchard, one of our members who chaired the committee. She herself knows at first hand some of the barriers facing women following scientific careers – she was one of the country’s first women doctors, having benefitted from positive action to recruit only 6 female medical students at The London Hospital in 1948. By the time SETupSCIENCE was established, Vi was Community Paediatrician for South Cheshire. She describes the huge range of events that were set up in schools and visits to places of scientific interest – from an inflatable planetarium, a chemistry demo with bangs and flashes, exploration of Tudor Medicine, a visit to The Salt Museum, and a day of modelling to show how a Bentley is made were among the many activities organised for the young people. As well as introducing over 2,500 children, of whom over half were girls, to an exciting experience of science, Vi explains that this initiative really changed the way that science teachers approached the subject. In 2007, the project won the Soroptimists International award for Education. When it came to an end in 2010 Vi explained that they had achieved their aims, and that schools were more aware of the importance of science and were providing excellent science programmes themselves.