Celebrating young women in STEM subjects on International Women’s Day 2024


Spotlight on The College Merthyr Tydfil  

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and here we celebrate two of our amazing learners at The College Merthyr Tydfil – Lilly and Caitlin. 

The college is working together with employers, businesses and local schools to drive forward key projects to showcase to females the opportunities that exist for them in areas that have been traditionally male dominated - including engineering and construction. Through our involvement in the Welsh Valleys Engineering Partnership Project Ambassador Programme, we have been able to give learners the opportunity to talk to, and learn from, females working in these industries, breaking the stigmas, and showing them that women can successfully work in these types of occupations. Lilly Phillips is one of these learners.

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Lilly joined the College from Afon Taf High School to study BTEC Level 3 Engineering. Lilly, who has now progressed successfully on to an apprenticeship programme at Tenneco-Walker, says, 

“I enjoyed college so much, my experience was so positive. My tutors were predominantly male I and was the only girl in the class, but I was never made to feel that way. I never went in and felt like the only girl - they saw how determined I was, and they really respected that. They gave me so many opportunities and taught me so much and they were such a good support system that it really encouraged me to try harder.” 

Since her apprenticeship began, Lilly’s confidence has grown and now she wants to inspire other women to explore the engineering industry.   

Lilly’s advice: 

“If you really want to do something and you really have a passion for something then don’t let other people’s opinions affect that. I firmly believe that anyone, regardless of gender, can achieve whatever they set their mind to. Personally, there’s a sense of satisfaction in proving stereotypes wrong, especially when it comes to challenging perceptions about what girls can achieve. It’s not about competing with boys but breaking barriers and showcasing that determination knows no gender boundaries.” 

Caitlin Jones has chosen to sit her A levels at The College Merthyr Tydfil, and is studying Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. 

Commenting on her experience at college, Caitlin says,

“I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of studying science A levels at college. The lessons are always engaging and informative and the support from the tutors has been fantastic. I’ve had the opportunity to attend and engage in a wide variety of extra-curricular work experience and scientific research placements, including an In2Science placement at the Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics; a research placement at the Cardiff University Dementia Research Institute; attended the Cambridge Selwyn College Summer School and the Cambridge STEM Smart Programme. All these opportunities have really helped me apply my knowledge from the classroom to use in practice. They have also been invaluable in giving me an insight into working in this industry and inspired me to want to go on to a career in STEM.”

Plans for the future 

Caitlin has received a conditional offer to study Biomedical Science at St Catherine’s College, Oxford University, in September 2024. She is really excited at this opportunity and hopes that completing her degree will eventually help her to progress into a career in Biomedical research.  

Caitlin added, 

“Science is continually evolving. New theories and techniques are being developed at a rapid rate and I want to be a part of the research that leads to these breakthroughs. I have only just scratched the surface; there is still so much that I don’t know but I am looking forward to my degree and the opportunities for further learning that this will bring.” 

Caitlin’s advice: 

“My advice to anyone that is considering studying STEM subjects at college is to take advantage of all of the extra-curricular opportunities on offer as these will give you a real insight as to what it’s like to work in this field.”  

We all have a role to play in challenging stereotypes, calling out discrimination, drawing attention to bias, and seeking out inclusion, and having one collective and unified voice is what drives change. From grassroots action to wide-scale momentum, we can all embrace equity.  When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there's a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment. Let’s inspire inclusion together.  

Article by Lisa Thomas, Principal of The College Merthyr Tydfil, and Vice Chair of ColegauCymru.

A person smiling at cameraDescription automatically generatedLisa joined the FE sector as Assistant Principal in September 2012. Having started her career as a history teacher in 1993, Lisa benefits from over 25 years’ experience of leadership and management roles within secondary and further education and local government. As a member of ColegauCymru, Lisa has represented the sector in several Welsh Government working groups and played an influential role in shaping government policy regarding the FE sector in Wales. She is also an experienced Estyn peer inspector. Lisa has more recently acted as Interim Chair for the ColegauCymru HR Director Network and Wales Negotiations Committee FE (WNCFE).  

Further Information 

International Women's Day 2024
8 March 2024

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