Women take centre stage for new STEM Centre opening

Women take centre stage for new STEM Centre opening

Sheffield Hallam University officially opened its new STEM Centre last night, naming the regional hub of science, technology, engineering and maths after a prominent female inventor.

Hertha Ayrton was a nineteenth-century award-winning British engineer, mathematician and physicist, as well as being a prominent feminist activist.

The £11m Hertha Ayrton STEM Centre includes cutting edge robotics, automotive, electrical and biosciences laboratories, 11,500m sq of floor space for teaching and a stunning new atrium. It is located in a prominent position directly opposite Sheffield Station.

The name of the centre demonstrates the University's commitment to encouraging more women to take up STEM subjects - where nationally male students and professionals still far exceed female ones.

More than 200 guests from industry, education and politics attended to see the Institution of Mechanical Engineers President, Carolyn Griffiths, unveil a plaque to commemorate the event.

Carolyn Griffiths said: "It is vitally important that young people, but in particular young women, are encouraged to study STEM subjects and work in these industries.

“Everyone benefits from having a diverse workforce, whether that's in the classroom or in the workshops or the boardrooms.

"Sheffield Hallam is a particular institution championing women in STEM; they have some outstanding students and now truly remarkable facilities with the opening of the Hertha Ayrton STEM Centre."

As well as achieving the prestigious Athena SWAN charter status for commitment to advancing women's careers in STEM in higher education and research, Sheffield Hallam has provided bursaries and scholarships aimed at encouraging more women to pursue a career in STEM subjects.

Rhiannon Jones, a recent graduate in electrical engineering, who hosted the opening event said: "Having studied here and benefitted from a bursary specifically for women studying STEM subjects, I was delighted be involved in opening the new facilities.

“The support really made a difference, allowing the completion of my degree and a transition into a career in industry."

Professor Chris Husbands, Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: "This is a fabulous new asset for the region. It reinforces Sheffield Hallam's place at the leading-edge of industry collaboration, teaching and research.

"Its position – at the gateway to the University - is a symbol of the importance we attach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for all.

“Naming the centre after Hertha Ayrton, a genuinely pioneering woman engineer, encapsulates the values which are at the heart of everything we do.

"Sheffield Hallam is passionate about the highest quality learning environments, giving everyone access to the best opportunities, so that all students, regardless of race, disability or gender, can flourish."

Hertha Ayrton (1854 - 1923) was a pioneering British engineer, mathematician, physicist and inventor.

She had a reputation as a fiery intellectual and feminist activist, excelling in the field of science and engineering.

She went on to register 26 patents in all and was the first female member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

In 1906 she was the first woman to be awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society for her work on electric arcs and ripples in sand and water.