Earlier this month our Head of Engagement, Ivvet Modinou, was invited to the United Nations Headquarters in New York to celebrate the 5th International Day of Women and Girls in Science. She talks below about the opportunity, and what we can do move things forward for women and girls in science.

Talk us through your experience at the UN?

This was a career highlight for me. The moment you walk into the General Assembly Hall you feel the gravitas of the space. As a child, I had always wanted to visit such an important venue, where so many world-defining speeches and declarations were made. Being Cypriot, the UN has greater significance for me, as it runs the peace-keeping force on the island my parents call home. Being able to join in the conversation around women in science in such a prestigious venue was incredible, and yes… I did send a postcard home from the UN Post Office!

What are some of the key things you took away from the event?

It was an important day that saw hundreds of women and men come together from around the world to celebrate how far we have come in terms of gender equality in science and highlight how much further we have to go.

There were many incredible speakers, and the full list can be found here. For me, some of the most powerful inventions came from Prof Sarah Anyang Agbor from the African Union Commission who discussed the specific challenges female researchers face when embarking on a career in science, whether its family commitments, harassment or cultural expectations. Equally as powerful, author Nathalie Molina Niño, who wrote the book Leapfrog: the new revolution for women entrepreneurs, spoke about the need to encourage more women and girls into business and how the current system is not inclusive to those from minority backgrounds.

What was the most inspiring message?

The most inspiring person I heard from was Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, the eldest daughter of Malcolm X. The diplomat and educator spoke passionately and urgently about the need to not just provide opportunities for women and girls to engage with science, but to teach them that they are entitled to take those opportunities. Emphasising the need for authentic role models, she left us with this powerful message: ‘How you see yourself, will dictate how you will be yourself’.

Where can we go from here to further promote women and girls in STEM?

I left feeling uplifted that a lot of people are working on the problem of ensuring women and girls take up a career in science, but also remain in science if they wish to. The world is facing many challenges. If the voice, experience and perspective of women are not represented in the labs, offices and universities that are trying to solve those challenges, then ultimately it will take us longer to find the right solutions that work for everyone.

Click here to find out more about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.