International Day of Women in Science

International Day of Women in Science

When Aletta Jacobs became the first Dutch woman to be admitted to a university back in 1871, she could only dream about today’s reality: In 2018, 374,000 female students were enrolled in a Dutch university which even exceeds the amount of male university students. It is safe to say that higher education for women has already come a long way, but there is still a certain stigma present when it comes to women and science. After all, most female university students still choose programs in the fields of art, social work or nursing, which leads to technical and science-oriented programmes being widely male-dominated. For example, only 7% of first year electrical engineering students were women in 2018. 

Jamie from our Communication Team sees a connection between people’s study choice and their upbringing: “I think that boys and girls are already pushed towards certain areas of interest when they are still very young. For example, my aunt always gave me dolls for Christmas even though I did not even like them. I would rather play with my brother’s toy cars and Lego. I think these early influences eventually impact people’s career choices.” 

To challenge these traditional gender roles and to celebrate all brilliant female scientists, engineers and IT-specialists, February 11th is promoted as the International Day of Women in Science. We want to take this day as an opportunity to appreciate our female team members. They work just as hard as anyone else in the team to make our dream of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge reality. 

Driven to challenge stereotypes

Out of 25 people who strive to combine engineering, sustainability and innovation at Top Dutch Solar Racing, only 7 are female. In comparison to her study programme Industrial Engineering and Management, Andel from our Acquisition Team appreciates the working environment within the team: “The men at TDSR all share the same mindset which boils down to equality. We treat each other as people, not as men or women. This is really refreshing since not all men in my study program have this attitude. Oftentimes, only female students are asked if they need additional help. It seems as if my professors find it hard to believe that men and women can do the same things.” 

Of course they can! Veronika from Acquisition had a hard time choosing her program, but she knew it had to be engineering: “I always wanted to do engineering, but I could not choose between mechanical and chemical, so I finally decided to study industrial engineering which is a mix of both. They teach us to look at real-life problems from different perspectives and come up with creative solutions. Be it something connected with robotics or organization management, we always need to use critical thinking with a touch of creativity.” 

In our team, Veronika and Andel are responsible for all tasks related to acquisition. Without their work, we would not be able to keep going with the project – simply because we would not have any sponsors or supporters. So even though you might not see them in the spotlight, they pull all the strings behind the scenes!

Driven to make a change

Even in study programs where the amount of male and female students is balanced, there can be noticeable differences between the sexes. Meike and Jolijn from the Travel Logistics Team both study International Facility Management, a very diverse program that allows alumni to specialize in different areas depending on personal interest. 

“Even though there is not a significant imbalance in my program, it is true that men tend to focus more on the technical side of facility management and women on soft services. When I tell people I am interested in the technical area as well, they seem surprised. After graduating, I want to be an energy transition advisor to help municipalities switch to green energy.” says Meike. 

Jolijn is graduating this year, but she is far from done: 
“What do I want to do after my studies? Look for new challenges! I want to continue with a master in the areas of supply chain and logistics. My dream is to travel around the world and add value to local sustainable projects.”

Just like Andel and Veronika, Meike and Jolijn carry a crucial role within our team. Together with Tom they set up a detailed travel plan and make sure that the team and, most importantly our solar car, arrive safely at our destination. Without them, we would only be able to show our skills on local racetracks.

Driven to be leaders

As we now know, the age-old prejudice that boys can do maths and girls are creative is outdated. But that does not mean that we do not also have some creative women on the team! Jamie and Caroline are part of the Communications Team. Whereas Caroline is the group lead and responsible for graphic design, Jamie is copywriter and manages the social media channels. Although they are technically not ‘women in science’, their work is still important for the team. No matter how amazing our solar car is or how many races we win, without them letting the media and other stakeholders know about it, it might go unnoticed.

Jamie’s competitive attitude helped her grow during her studies:
“I am currently doing a master's in International Communication which is not a male-dominated program. However, I also did a bachelor in International Business. Obviously, most CEOs and managers nowadays are men, but that only motivated me more to show my skills. In fact, it is proven that women have some striking advantages when it comes to sales, for example being good listeners and showing more empathy. There is virtually nothing women can not do.” 

Caroline, who is also majoring in International Communication, agrees with this sentiment: 
“My goal is to become a real boss lady who challenges greenwashing companies to better themselves for real. Sadly, I noticed that as a woman I am sometimes still underestimated by clients, especially when they have a more technical background or problem statement.” 

For Caroline, Top Dutch is a chance to combine her academic skills with her passion for motorsports: “

I have loved motorsport from a young age onwards since my dad is a big fan as well. Formula 1, Formula 2, MotoGP, 24 hours of Le Mans, you name it. Additionally, I felt like the project would let me implement and grow my knowledge, not only about my own field of expertise, but also about teamwork and of course in the technical field.”

Driven to prove ourselves

After reading this far, you might think ‘Well, there are indeed women on the team who contribute to the project, but none actually build the solar car.’ Wrong! There is exactly one woman in the technical team: Caitlin. Together with Kobe, she is responsible for the software of our solar car. She is doing a master in Artificial Intelligence, a field of study with limitless possibilities. Although AI counts approximately 20% female students, Caitlin does not mind too much: 

“I have honestly not been really too bothered about being surrounded by men, as I usually surround myself with people who respect me regardless of my gender. However, I have had people make relatively sexist remarks against me which does not feel really nice. In such cases, I try to tell myself that the majority of the people are not like this and that my abilities will prove myself in the end. ”

Seven women, seven stories about achieving one’s dreams and pulling through. They are all connected by the goal of a sustainable future for our planet. We are proud to have them on the team, it surely would not be the same without them.