Molly Imrie

Molly Imrie


Martha ID photo

Dr. Martha Gavan 

For years women have been underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers. In particular, women are woefully underrepresented in physics, engineering, maths and technology, tracing all the way back to subject choices in school.

So why are so few girls perusing STEM subjects? I don’t doubt that implicit bias and stereotype threat play a large part in perpetuating the gender bias. A female student taking a physics exam experiences an additional level of stress related to the stereotype that women are not good at physics. A reference to this stereotype, even one as subtle as taking the test in a room of mostly boys, can adversely affect her performance.

However, it should be noted that girls attending single-sex schools are still less likely to pursue maths and physics than boys. Is it the fear of pursing a degree or career that is still so male dominated? Or is there a belief that they are simply not as good at these subjects?

And why should they believe otherwise when historically women’s contributions to STEM have been overshadowed and re-written to exclude them from the spotlight. Not only is this a tragedy for the women that were overlooked, but also for the millions of young girls who were robbed of the chance to be inspired by these female STEM role models.  

In 2016 the critically acclaimed film Hidden Figures told the true story of three female African-American mathematicians who played pivotal roles in NASA during the early years of the US Space Programme. During the press for the film leading actress Taraji P. Henson laments that growing up she didn’t believe pursuing a career in mathematics was an option for her. She claimed “I didn’t even consider maths as a possibility. It was a given that it was a boys subject. I’m so angry that I didn’t have role models like [the women portrayed in the film] because that would have let me know that maths was an option for me!” This is a sentiment that has resonated with women across the world and through generations.

In order to fight the ingrained societal legacy of “girls” vs “boys” subject or career choices it is vital that all students be exposed to STEM role models that they can relate to. That is why I am so proud of the work we do at TechFest, a charity organisation with a mission to promote STEM to young people and the wider community. Through a year-round programme of events we have the opportunity to expose students across every age range to a variety of STEM activities and introduce them to a huge range of inspirational STEM professionals who volunteer their time to mentor, guide and support the students.

Being able to empower the next generation by highlighting the incredible women who are currently contributing to STEM is hugely important in helping to end gender bias. Even at primary school or nursery level, I will all too often see girls shy away from an engineering challenge while the boys don’t hesitate to get stuck in. It seems that despite not having a clear idea what a career in engineering involves, many girls have an ingrained belief that it is not a suitable option for them, without realising they may have all the skills that would make them excel in the field. Interestingly, if I re-package the exact same challenge as a problem-solving activity rather than an engineering challenge, the girls are much more likely to succeed. As such, it is rarely a lack of ability but rather a lack of confidence that stands in the girls way of excelling in these challenges. By highlighting the transferrable skills that provide you with the tools to do well in a chosen field we can remove some of the mystery surrounding career choices.  

In recent years there has been significant progress in demonstrating the importance of women in STEM. However, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done to dispel misconceptions about STEM subjects and help encourage the next generation of STEM leaders.    


Writen by Dr. Martha Gavan

Friday, 20th March, 2020


NASA in Aberdeen - Inspiring the Next Generation 

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The TechFest Eureka Summer Series gets families involved with Science and Engineering by testing their skills with a number of shows and hands-on workshops.






As part of our Eureka Series sponsored by Chevron, TechFest will be organising another series of summer activities to be held in libraries across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Children from 5 years - 12 years, will be given the opportunity to test their science and engineering skills through a numbers of hands-on workshops including using science to solves mysteries, solving puzzles and designing and building. 


Eureka Aberdeenshire Libraries Poster2019


 Eureka Aberdeen City Libraries poster 2019




"Our industry is driven by technological advancement and it is the 'aha!' or 'eureka' moments that often develop into more innovative and efficient ways to safely explore and produce oil and gas. We know that tomorrow's Chevron employees are today's schoolchildren and by supporting initiatives like TechFest's 'Eureka Series' we hope to encourage and inspire the next generation of industry professtionals that can drive our industry forward with their game-changing ideas." - Greta Lydecker, Managing Director, Chevron Upstream Europe. 




Young people given the chance to experience Eureka moments this summer! 

A series of workshops designed to show young people how STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) can be applied in everyday life, will tour libraries across Aberdeen City and Shire this summer.

The TechFest Eureka Summer Series, sponsored by Chevron Upstream Europe, will visit 20 libraries in the region from July 18 until August 18.

The programme features fun and engaging workshops including a demonstration of how science can be used to solve detective investigations and how technology is applied to help an aircraft take flight.

More than 100 children from nurseries and primary schools across the City and Shire are expected to attend, with TechFest staff delivering the interactive workshops.

Greta Lydecker, managing director, Chevron Upstream Europe, said: “Our social investments in STEM engage students in their learning life, from primary schools, right through secondary schools, colleges and universities.

“Working with our partners, we take a holistic approach to our investments in education by getting students excited about STEM and encouraging them to pursue STEM workshops, courses, and ultimately, STEM careers.

“Partnering with organisations like TechFest to develop STEM programmes that are fun and engaging, arms students with the critical skills they need to succeed today and in the future.”

This is the second annual Eureka series organised by an Aberdeen-based charity TechFest, which aims to promote STEM activities to young people and the wider community, and the first to go on tour during the summer holidays.

Sarah Chew, managing director of TechFest, said: “We are looking forward to visiting new venues across Aberdeen City and Shire to demonstrate to children just how valuable and exciting STEM subjects are.

“These workshops are designed to show young people how the STEM topics they hear about in school can be applied in the real world and who knows – they might even inspire children to consider a career in STEM. It is never too early for young people to start thinking about what they’d like to do when they grow up”

“We are incredibly grateful to our sponsor Chevron Upstream Europe whose support allows us to continue to educate, inspire and entertain. We hope to see lots of young people taking advantage of these fun and educational events throughout the school holidays.”

 For further information please visit Eureka Summer Series.

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Primary Pupils to Experience Chemistry at Work


Primary 6 and 7 school pupils from across the North-east are to explore the world of chemistry this week at a series of interactive workshops coordinated by TechFest.The annual Chemistry at Work event, which is funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, takes place Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th June at the University of Aberdeen. The event will give the youngsters the opportunity to experience some of the basic principles of chemistry as they are applied in industry, research and everyday life, with the help of people who use chemistry in their jobs.

A total of 18 classes from schools across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will take part in workshops and interactive talks delivered by industry and research professionals from organisations including the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen City Council, Scientific and Chemical and Xodus Group, as well as TechFest. The sessions include lessons on dissolving and solubility, using energy from waste and how to extract DNA from strawberries. Xodus Group will also deliver a workshop which encourages team working and investigation of the equipment and materials involved in cleaning contaminated water.

 Jenny Taylor, TechFest’s STEM Festival manager, said: “The Chemistry at Work event gives a real world context to chemistry studies by using fun and interactive workshops to engage and motivate the pupils. “This is the 11th year of Chemistry at Work and thanks to the support of the Royal Society of Chemistry, our industry partners and sponsors, we are able to continue to promote chemistry to primary pupils as an exciting and hugely relevant subject.”

Rio Hutchings, Schools Engagement Executive at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Chemistry at Work events are a fantastic way to show young people the importance of chemistry in their everyday lives. This event organised by TechFest is also a great opportunity for students to interact with practising chemists local to their area.”

 For further information please visit Chemistry at Work.

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TechFest's STEM in the Installation Project to Bring the North Sea to Aberdeen City Classrooms


Pupils at nurseries and primary schools in Aberdeen are to take part in a new project which aims to use the North Sea oil and gas industry to teach safety and science lessons. TecFest's STEM in the Installation has been devised by TechFest, a city-based charity which aims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities to young people and the wider community.

A total of five schools have signed up to take part in the first STEM in the Installation sessions, which are being sponsored by Nexen. The stage one workshop is designed for early years to primary three pupils and uses new North Sea developments to encourage children to take responsibility for their own safety and learn how to make their school and home environment safer. The stage two workshop for youngsters in P4-7 explores the engineering, science and technology involved in the installation of North Sea assets. Pupils will use skills such as problem solving, collaboration, evaluation and improvement as they work as a team.

Additional workshops for lower secondary age pupils (stage three) and S6 pupils (stage four) are also being developed and will follow later this year.

TechFest's education manager, Molly Imrie, said: “We have run the STEM in the Pipeline scheme for secondary school pupils for the past 10 years, allowing them to work with industry mentors to solve a problem which is relevant to the oil and gas industry. We wanted to offer the same experience to younger children so have developed STEM in the Installation, which gives them an age-appropriate introduction to the energy sector and teaches science, technology and engineering lessons as well as important life skills such as decision making. We are grateful to our sponsor Nexen for its support in the development of this new programme and look forward to seeing the results of the pupils’ work over the coming weeks.”

Ray Riddoch, Managing Director UK & SVP Europe, Nexen Petroleum U.K. Limited said: “STEM subjects are important in equipping students for the wide and varied roles within Nexen and across the Oil and Gas industry. Stem in the Installation is a fun and immersive project which can pave the way in igniting the imagination of our younger generations to consider careers in science, technology and engineering. Nexen is delighted to support this worthy project taking place across Aberdeen primary and secondary schools as it will increase understanding of how these subjects can translate into a real and fulfilling career.”

The schools taking part are Cornhill Primary School, Hanover Street Primary School, Riverbank Primary School, St Peter's RC Primary School and Woodside Primary School.


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