Soapbox Science: Impact on Speakers

Since 2011 thousands of speakers have taken part in Soapbox Science, and hundreds of people have joined organising teams and helped out as volunteers. In a new report, we hope to showcase some of the impacts Soapbox Science has had on our speakers and organisers.

By collecting anecdotal feedback and case studies we wanted to capture some of the personal stories of the people involved with Soapbox Science, and to build a fuller picture of how Soapbox Science has impacted speakers’ community and network, their visibility, confidence and public engagement skills.

The report is available to read here

Foreword by Soapbox Science co-founders Prof Nathalie Pettorelli and Prof Seirian Sumner

More than 2,700 women and non-binary people in science have stepped onto our soapboxes since we decided we needed to do something to address stereotypes and biases in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM). To us, this number is mind blowing, and certainly not something we would have predicted a decade ago, when we first tried to convince people that there was a need, and a place, for an initiative like Soapbox Science.

Numbers are, however, far from being the story here: this report highlights the human impacts of the network we initiated, and illustrates how public engagement has the potential to make a difference to scientists’ careers not only by raising their profile and widening the reach of their work, but also by extending their professional networks and improving their communication skills. Although born in a research institute in London, Soapbox Science has resonated with women and non-binary researchers globally, demonstrating how the challenges faced by these groups, and barriers to increased diversity in STEMM, are not shaped by geography. From Africa to Australasia, Europe and the Americas, the testimonies in this report tell how local communities of under-represented groups in STEMM can boost confidence, promote profiles, reduce feelings of isolation and support career progression. These stories also illustrate how organically grown initiatives provide a powerful way to elevate the voice of women and
non-binary scientists and spearhead change, representing an important complement to top-down approaches.

To us, Soapbox Science has always been the best antidote to the countless examples of gendered biases and stereotypes we have witnessed through our careers. Knowing that Soapbox Science has been an effective antidote for others makes us proud of our contribution in establishing this initiative as a sustainable, borderless one. We hope that many more women and non-binary scientists will be tempted to share their passion for their work with the general public in unexpected places, challenging perceptions of who scientists are, providing role models and helping to create a world where any young person – no matter their background, gender or race – can see themselves advancing knowledge and pushing the frontiers of what we
understand about our world.

Nathalie & Seirian

Soapbox Science Co-founders

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