University to mark International Women's Day

An event to celebrate the achievements of women and to inspire the next generation of women to consider careers in science will take place at the University of Aberdeen on Friday (March 6).

Students, early career researchers, members of the business community and the public will hear from pioneers across a range of fields including the most senior serving female officer in all three Armed Services, a leading professor of astronomy, a Special Representative of the UN, a double gold-medal winning paralympian and a geochemist who persuaded Lego bosses to develop toys featuring female scientists.

Each year International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women and the Aberdeen event will feature high-profile women from across a range of different disciplines.

The International Women’s Day Conference for 2015 has the theme ‘Challenges & Overcoming Barriers’ and speakers will share their experiences of reaching the top in their chosen fields.

The first key note address will be given by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a leading professor of astronomy and former President of the Royal Astronomical Society and the first female President of the Institute of Physics.

She will be followed by Zainab Hawa Bangura, a diplomat with over 20 years experience in governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa who was appointed as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict in September 2012.

Danielle Brown MBE will then outline how archery became a lifeline when her disability put a stop to the sports she loved. Determined to be the best, she won gold in both the Beijing and London Paralympics and became a three time World Champion – and was able to juggle the demands of training around a law degree.

Dr Ellen Kooijman will explain how her work with toy company Lego is inspiring girls to pursue a career in science from a young age. A geoscientist who runs a national laboratory, Dr Kooijman is the face behind a new Lego design called “Research Institute” which she has used to promote women in science. She said: “I think displaying women in science in a popular toy can help convey the message to both girls and boys that it is perfectly normal for women to have these types of careers.”

Brigadier (Retired) Jean Dowson is the final speaker of the day. She left the British Army eight years ago as the most senior serving female officer in all three Armed Services, having worked in Germany, UK and the Far East. 

Professor Neva Haites, Vice-Principal of the University, who will open the conference, said: “Events are held around the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements and we are delighted to be a part of that here in Aberdeen.

“We have an impressive line-up of women who have reached the top of their individual fields and we look forward to welcoming them to campus.

“The conference has a theme this year of ‘Challenges & Overcoming Barriers’ and each of our speakers has their own journey to share.

“We hope the day will provide great inspiration to the next generation of women who might follow in their footsteps by reaching the top of their chosen careers.”