Single sex schools help women become scientists because there is nobody to tell them that they should not be in the lab, Dame Mary Archer has said.
Dame Mary, who has just become chair of London’s Science Museum said she gained her love for the subject while a student at Cheltenham Ladies’ College where she had the same chemistry teacher as Margaret Thatcher.
“Going to a single-sex school is quite a traditional route for women my age into science because nobody said ‘You shouldn’t do that, dear’ — not until it is too late anyway,” she told the Evening standard.
Dame Mary, 70, went on to come top in her year at Oxford University where she studied chemistry. Just eight per cent of students in her year were women.
“We were rare birds — quite literally,” she said. “I think I quite enjoyed that. It wasn’t until I became a lecturer at Cambridge that I [saw] glass ceilings. But by then your temperament is set: you’re unstoppable.”
When she was studying, funding was bountiful. She believes it is “much harder” now for students. “The debt is something I never had around my neck.”
The former Cambridge University lecturer said that girls of today need to learn that donning a lab coat is not a sign of masculinity. “Among the things that can turn [girls] off are very daunting role models: we can’t all be Marie Curie, nor do we all want to be.”