by Elisa Freeling
One sunny Saturday in May a couple of years back, I was walking along the South Bank with my husband and kids when we noticed several women standing here and there on soapboxes, enthusiastically engaging the crowds around them. My first thought was that it was perhaps a proselytising cult, but as we approached I heard a woman going on not about Adam but about atoms, ‘a window into space’.
It turned out we’d stumbled onto Soapbox Science, a free annual event aimed at altering the public’s view of scientists as male. And this year’s, which looks to be both educational and entertaining, is happening this weekend, on the 27th of May.
Founded by Drs Seirian Sumner and Nathalie Pettorelli, an evolutionary biologist and an ecologist, Soapbox Science has been challenging the gender bias of their field for the past seven years. They point out that while ‘girls love science at school, and up to 60 percent of science undergraduates are women’ (which at least anecdotally appeared true to me at the recent Imperial College Festival), ‘only 15 percent of UK science professors are women’. By raising the profile of women in science, Sumner and Pettorelli are working to change this sorry statistic.
From 2pm to 5pm on Saturday around the Queen’s Stone (by Gabriel’s Wharf), you can meet astrophysicists, biologists, chemists and more—leading scientists ‘who are there to amaze you with their latest discoveries’. The dozen topics are widely varied, including ‘how tiny carbon nanotechnology will change all of our lives’, ‘the singing king of the swingers: conserving the world’s rarest ape’, ‘brain hacking with viruses’.
Bring the kids—girls and boys—to support this effort for gender equity in an unbalanced profession, but even more so they can marvel at the many wonders of the scientific world.
For more information, including the full list of speakers, visit Soapbox Science’s London 2017 event page.