Earlier this week saw the launch of the WOMENinSTEM@IC group, which aims to address the gender imbalance in STEM.

The group, part of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), held their launch event on the evening of Monday 21st May, attracting many young scientists with an impressive line-up of panellists. Speakers included Professor Dame Julia Higgins, President of the Institute of Physics, Dr Ozak Esu, electrical engineer and one of the Telegraph’s ‘Top 50 Women in Engineering under 35’, and Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute.

Chiara Heide, Imperial PhD candidate and chair of the group, told Felix: “founding this group has been a lot of work with my team, but it is worth it when you see how many people turned up at the launch and want to get involved.” Heide said the enthusiasm for the event, which was held in the City and Guilds Building, showed “there is an actual need of out WOMENinSTEM@IC group”.

The committee of five aim to “provide a platform for personal and professional growth”, and “improve retention of young women STEM graduates.”

The event comes amid increasing scrutiny of gender equality in academia, with last month’s release of gender pay gap data showing the gap at Russell Group universities is twice the national average. A 2014 report from the government’s Science and Technology Committee reported only 17% of STEM professors were women; while encouraging young women to choose STEM degrees is worthwhile, data show these students are often ‘lost’ post-graduation, with higher attrition rates than their male peers.

Professor Stephen Curry, Imperial’s Assistant Provost (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion), offered his congratulations to Heide and the committee: “The expert panel of successful women academics, engineers and entrepreneurs spoke very candidly about their experiences and raised a lot of important questions from the audience. It is my hope that our reinvigorated work at Imperial on equality, diversity and inclusion will be able to provide some long-overdue answers.”

Heide told Felix: “This initiative wouldn’t have been possible without the work of all committee members and the ongoing support of my academic supervisor, Dr Cleo Kontoravdi, and the Department of Chemical Engineering. Stay tuned for more, and don’t let anyone take away your curiosity, your passion, your determination, or your dreams.”

For more information on the group, you can join their mailing list here.