Sandra Banton is a STEM Engagement Advisor and a STEM Ambassador. Answering the STEM NOW Q&A, Sandra speaks about STEM outreach from the perspective of someone from a non-traditional STEM background...
Who or what first inspired your curiosity in STEM?
SB: Coming from a recruitment/employability background I could easily see that young people were not being provided with enough exposure to a STEM-related career.
What was your personal journey into STEM, or your chosen field?
SB: I started as a volunteer STEM Ambassador in my company which was in addition to my day job as a Recruiter within HR. I then had an opportunity to take on the role of STEM Engagement Adviser on a full time basis.
Have you encountered/overcome any boundaries along your STEM journey?
SB: Me, personally, no. However, when speaking to female students I am finding that they feel a STEM-related career isn't for them as they feel that they are not good at maths, which immediately creates a barrier.
What is something you are working on/have worked on that excites you? Or, tell us about a general aspect/topic of STEM that excites you?
SB: I am currently leading the extension of our STEM Engagement programme to a wider UK audience, recruiting new STEM Ambassadors and reviewing our resources which is a very exciting time for me.
What has been your most memorable moment as a STEM Ambassador and why?
SB: Delivering a STEM workshop to a classroom of students with hearing impairment. They were no less keen, enthusiastic and inspired by the activity. This experience certainly gave me an insight into the challenges these students face on a daily basis.
Why is it important that young people are introduced to STEM?
SB: In order for young people to make informed career choices, it's extremely important that they are provided with as much information as possible about all of the opportunities available to them.
What advice would you give a young person considering a future in STEM?
SB: To do something you will enjoy, do a lot of research in to the subjects you will be studying and to consider your end goal. Also to bear in mind that career journeys are often not straight forward so it's good to have a fall back plan, just in case.
Why is diversity and inclusion in STEM fields important?
SB: Diversity and inclusion is important as STEM is, and should be, open to everyone regardless of gender, background, academic abilities, etc... I believe that companies and organistions will benefit enormously by having different types of people from a variety of cultures and abilities as we all have something useful to contribute.
What are your hopes for the future of STEM?
SB: I hope that more and more young people from hard to reach and under privileged backgrounds get the opportunity to experience STEM as a possible career choice. I hope it will become a priority within the education sector as STEM affects all of our lives on a daily basis.