Aug 26 2021
A Collaborative Photography
HKU WISE (Women in Science & Engineering)
Laura Simonsen (Photographer & Visual Arts Educator)
The aim of the HKU Women in Science project is to bring the women doing work across the sciences at HKU into greater visibility by showcasing the diversity of women in science as well as the range of science we all do.
Despite the trend that an increasing number of girls and women choose to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects at the high school and University level, the number of women who stay in STEM fields declines at higher ranks. In the Faculty of Science at HKU, for example, while roughly 50% of the undergraduate students are female, less than 20% of the tenure track appointments are held by women. There are many factors which influence a woman’s decision to stay in or to leave STEM fields, which makes it a complicated problem to address. Women’s departure from the professional practice of the STEM fields is a pressing problem, however, since as multiple studies have shown that increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce also increases productivity and innovation. The loss of women in STEM, therefore, has real consequences both for the progression of individual scientists, for science itself, and for the well-being of society.
HKU Women in Science, a photography and oral history project, is the first of a series of events which aim to increase the visibility and diversity of women working across the sciences at HKU. We hope that this exhibition will stimulate conversations about what a scientist is and does; the value of diversity for scientific research; and different ways to support girls and women as they make their way more deeply into scientific work.
In the Common Core course CCST9065 Women in Science, for example, on the first day of class students are asked to name as many female scientists as they can. The overwhelming majority of students can only name onefemale scientist. When asked to draw a scientist, the most common image is a likeness of a wild-haired Einstein in a lab coat wielding a beaker. Through portraits and photos of women actively conducting scientific research in the lab and in the field, this exhibit aims to expand our view of what a scientist looks like, to give women scientists a more prominent voice, and to demonstrate how actual science is done in different contexts.
HKU Women in Science is an ongoing project and we will continue to add images to the collection to capture more of the diversity of science across the University. If you would like to participate in the project, please contact HKU WISE at email@example.com – we’d love to have you join us!
About: HKU WISE
HKU Women in Science and Engineering was founded five years ago to create a supportive community to promote and support diversity and inclusion in STEM fields on campus. The overall goal of the group is to increase the participation of women in the fields of Science and Engineering. The group has three main aims: 1) to inspire female students to study and build careers in these fields, 2) to build a supportive community of female scientists and engineers on campus, and 3) to encourage the University to adopt hiring and promotion practices that increase diversity. The groups organizes events which aim to provide networking opportunities for students and faculty, increasing the visibility of women scientists and engineers on campus, and provide professional development opportunities through the organization of workshops and seminars. Together, these events encourage ongoing conversations about factors that perpetuate gender inequity in STEM subjects and best practices for increasing diversity and inclusion. In 2020, the HKU WISE Student Chapter was formed to bring this conversation and support to undergraduate students on campus. Our events are open to everyone. Ultimately we hope to inspire more women to join and stay in STEM fields and to work towards a more inclusive campus community.
About: Laura Simonsen
Laura Simonsen is a photographer and visual art educator. She has been living in Hong Kong for 15 years and has held several photography exhibitions that have raised awareness and support for several NGO’s in Hong Kong. Laura’s work encourages dialogues about social minority groups, subcultures and powerful personal journeys. She wants to create an impact with her photos and hopes to open the minds of her audience. She has the ability to capture narratives showing honest personalities through a lens. Laura sees photography as a powerful tool that can encourage acceptance, raise awareness and instigate change.
“Women in Science has been an ongoing project for the past 2 years, with long gaps in between each photo shoot. I am so proud that we kept the vision alive during challenging times. I also believe this is only the start and the project will be ongoing with several phases and possibilities that will evolve in the future into a much larger celebration of ‘Women in Science’. For this project, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and shoot only in analogue using Kodak Portra 800 film. I love the colour and grainy aesthetic. I like to take risks and I believe when you become too comfortable, it is very important to challenge yourself to keep evolving as an artist. My previous projects and exhibitions are all shot using a digital camera. This experience has allowed me to value the simplicity of shooting in film and having to really think about each photograph instead of having the luxury of seeing your photograph straight away, and being able to delete or edit. It’s a very different approach and for me it has been more challenging. The most rewarding part of this project has been meeting individually each scientist and listening to their stories and their passion for what they do. Science and academia is also out of my comfort zone and I have loved entering the fascinating worlds and minds of each woman rising above the challenge of being a ‘Woman in Science.” – Laura Simonsen
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