A 24-year-old neuroscientist from Harrow, who is currently in the final year of her master’s degree at Manchester University, wants to help quash social stereotypes around women in science this International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Friday 11 February).
Rucha Joshi, whose family originates from India and relocated to North London seven years ago, wants to prove that young women and girls are suited to a career in science.
The ambitious 24-year-old says when she first came to the UK at the age of 17, she was shy and unsure about her future, until national mentoring charity, The Girls’ Network, stepped in to help. Now she is paving the way for young women in science as she follows her dream in pursuit of a career in science.
Rucha said: “When I first came to the UK, I enrolled in my local college and started studying for my A-levels, it was there that I was offered the chance to join The Girls’ Network – a national mentoring charity for young women aged between 14-19.
“It was through The Girls’ Network that I realised my true passion for neuroscience and the array of career opportunities available to me. My mentor helped me to realised that there was nothing holding me back from pursuing a career in science. She encouraged me to take a gap year to explore all my options, undertake some work experience, hone my skills and gain a wider perspective on life and culture in the UK. It was such a brilliant suggestion, and I am so glad I took that time to myself.
“Having a mentor was a fantastic experience for me and looking back I can really see the difference it made to my life. I think it’s so important to show young women all the career options available to them, and that we can overcome any social inequalities, prejudice or discrimination as long as we work hard and are determined enough.”
With women only making up around 35% of STEM students in high education, International Day of Women and Girls in Science aims to highlight the variety and range of career opportunities available in the STEM sector.
Rucha added: “Women are so under-represented in the STEM sector so it is important to show girls that science can be fun, interesting, varied and really fulfilling.
“If you like knowing how things work, a career in science could be for you. Although having role models, like I had with my mentor really helped me to decide what to study, where to study and how to go about applying. She helped me with my confidence and grow as a person, which helped me to prepare for my university journey. I think more young women would benefit from having a mentor at such a crucial time in their lives.”
On completion of her master’s degree, Rucha is now considering whether to embark on a Phd in Pharmaceuticals or take on a role at a pharmaceutical company.
Launched in 2013, The Girls’ Network is a national equality charity that pairs girls aged 14-19 with a mentor, who is a professional woman. They connect mentees to work experience opportunities, networking events and exclusive workshops, and most importantly support, empower, inspire, encourage and motivate the girls as part of a year-long mentoring programme.
The national charity recently reported that 90% of the girls mentored by them stated that they feel more positive about their future, while 81% of girls said that mentoring helped them to focus more on their schoolwork and three quarters also stated that they reached for their mentors as a source of support outside of their official mentoring sessions.
Charly Young, CEO of The Girls’ Network, said: “Mentoring can not only have an impact socially, economically and academically, it can also help girls to overcome a whole host of barriers, from a lack of confidence to anxiety around decisions about their future. The power that a mentoring relationship can have on just one individual is staggering and it can be the difference between them flourishing or struggling to find their way.”