Thursday, 20 March 2008

Down, round and under

Television presenter Maggie Philbin is a great example of how some women find a way around the boulders that are put in their career path. Speaking at a conference in Church House, London* last month, she described how despite being deflected from a scientific career by her teachers, she found her own route.

Persuaded to study English and Drama at Manchester University, she found herself looking wistfully through the window at the medical students who congregated tantalisingly close across the campus. However, she completed her arts degree and began a career in children’s tv and radio programmes. This led to an opportunity to work on Tomorrow’s World, finding herself in her element and confounding those rash enough to take her at face value. “You’re not as stupid as you look,” was one comment. She has gone on to become a respected and successful specialist in medical matters.

The story brought back my own memories of being driven inexorably down the classics and literature route at school and fighting to take scientific subjects as well as Latin and History before finding the route into construction through journalism. Career advice seems slow to change.

* Raising the Profile of Women Scientists and Engineers within the Media: The Annual Conference of the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET. www.

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