Shattering the Science Glass Ceiling

25rh July 2022

2022 is the UN-declared International Year of Glass. It is also the theme for 2022 Science Week, which will be celebrated at Girton through a variety of fun and informative Science activities, including an exhibition of student work on 18th August that parents are invited to enjoy in the Naunton Family Building.

To support the glass theme for Science Week, we spoke with two Girton female science teachers who have shattered the professional glass ceiling. 

“Don’t let the status quo limit your ambitions; let it fuel your resolve for change.” Ms Kimberley Clayton

Ms Kimberly Clayton teaches Year 8 Science and VCE Biology and was a research zoologist before becoming a teacher. From a young age, Ms Clayton was enthralled by the diversity of life on our planet and by evolution and the natural world.

Ms Niamh McGlinchey teaches 7 Science, Year 8 Maths, Year 11 Chemistry and Year 12 Psychology and her passion is psychology and human behaviour, fuelled by a keen interest in the unique aspects of humans and what makes each of us so different.

We asked both women about their journey to becoming teachers, including their studies and industry experience and were captivated with stories only science can tell.

Ms Clayton studied metabolics of tail regeneration in Bynoe’s geckos, looking at the energy requirements to grow back a tail and behavioural changes the geckos made to accommodate this growth.

“I also studied the relationship between fairy wrens and cuckoos that ‘parasitised’ their nests; specifically, how fairy wrens behave, build nests, and communicate differently in environments that contained the cuckoo predator.

“Zoology research is an incredibly interesting field that gives us a lot of insight into the natural world and our impact upon it,” Ms Clayton said.

Ms McGlinchey has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and particularly loved studying forensic psychology and attempting to understand the thinking behind criminal behaviour. She also has a Masters in Global Mental Health.

“I loved this degree; exploring the more practical interventions and treatment for psychological disorders was so interesting.

“The Masters in Global Mental Health explored the different cultural and social perspectives on psychological disorders and mental health and how this can impact treatment and support available.

“This area of study is one that I would love to return to in the future,” she said.

With only 22% of enrolments and 24% of completions of total STEM VET and university enrolments being women, the importance of female role models for school students cannot be overstated. We asked these two science leaders how female Girton students can smash the ‘science glass ceiling’ in the future.

“Don’t let statistics hold you back; let them motivate you.

“Don’t let the status quo limit your ambitions; let it fuel your resolve for change. We are at a turning point for the progression and influence of women in our society – you can be part of that turning point,” Ms Clayton said.

She turns to internationally renowned scientist Jane Goodall for validation. Ms Goodall says:“There is a powerful force unleashed when young people resolve to make change. You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Ms Mc Glinchey explains that female scientists must be determined to run their own race.

“I have never had an end goal in my career. I have never really listened to others’ opinions on what I should do or study. I’ve only ever considered what interested me, what I was passionate about and chosen to question and explore that further.

Science comprises so much of the world, and we owe so much of modern society’s function to science.” Ms Niamh McGlinchey

“If science is something that excites you and interests you, then go for it,” she advises.

With the science industry representing massive employment opportunities now and in the future, Ms Clayton and Ms McGlinchey are passionate about students undertaking science studies as part of their formal educational pathway, maintaining that there is a science for everyone.

“Science is such an exciting subject! It is ever-changing, there are always questions to be asked, and I love imparting understanding and sharing in students’ own interest areas.

“Science comprises so much of the world, and we owe so much of modern society’s function to science,” Ms Clayton said.

Ms McGlinchey pitches with equal enthusiasm for students to study science;

“Science has something for everyone. There will always be a topic or a question where you have wondered how or why that grabs your interest.

“I love the moments in class when my students’ questions about the world around them can be answered.

“Experiments are also fun; everyone enjoys getting to use a Bunsen burner!” she said.


National Data Report on Girls and Women in STEM:

You can find a paper that Ms Clayton co-authored here: