Here at CellPath we are delighted to shine the spotlight on some of our excellent women in science as we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
We hear their stories.
Sadekha Zillul, Territory Manager
I did A Level Sciences and then an undergraduate degree in biology at University of Gloucestershire which covered a range of biology, but very little human biology and lots of environmental biology. That gave me a lot of great opportunities, including a trip to South Africa, but I wanted to focus on human biology so I did a Masters in Biomedical Science at the University of Bath. This included a lot of cancer biology and genetic diseases. My final year project was cancer biology focussed which I enjoyed the most. I was also working as a sales person at the time which I really enjoyed because I like talking to people and meeting new people. When I was doing the project I realised the lab wasn’t really for me. I loved it but it wasn’t what I wanted to do straightaway, but I still really loved science, and I like communicating it. That’s how I got into Account Managing. I first looked at this halfway through my Masters and then applied for a few roles until getting my job at CellPath as a Territory Manager where I am now.
In my role I speak to customers who are end users at hospitals- like biomedical scientists and lab managers, about our products. My main job is selling our products of course, but I also need to help the lab and find solutions to their problems, and try to make their lives a bit easier. I enjoy that it isn’t the standard 9-5 and requires a lot of self motivation and organisation. It’s all my responsibility which I really like. I also love the communication side of things, for example before the pandemic I was able to attend exhibitions and conferences and I have been able to present there too. I don’t think this is my strongest point but I think it’s great that we had the chance to do it.
I would definitely recommend a career in science to girls and young women. I think, historically, biology is seen as a woman’s science but people definitely shouldn’t see it as an easier science when compared to subjects like chemistry or engineering.
Harpreet Dhaliwal, Territory Manager
I like being a woman in science because I like the challenge. I have still found people who are surprised that I work in science, it wasn’t what people assumed I’d do. I don’t know why this still happens when we look at how many women are in science now. People speak of their jobs in science with pride but for some reason, when a woman says it, there is still a bit of a shock or surprise. I like that there are more of us now though. Though people don’t always expect it right now, the more of us there are, the more people will expect it. I hope the next generation of women won’t find that science is male dominated. I think there are a lot of clever people in science and it should just be the person with the right brain for the job that does it.
I would tell anybody looking at a career in science not to be scared of it. It’s easy to be put off by outside influences, or think that it will be too hard or too nerdy. They are the same cliches that say you have to be really brainy and book clever. I think you just have to be good at working things out.
I wouldn’t say I am the cleverest person, and I don’t always think I pick things up very quickly, but I apply myself. I don’t see why girls or women should be put off from a young age if they’re not “the clever ones.” Science is open for everyone and I don’t think people take enough of a chance at it. I saw it happen to other girls at school who were pushed towards subjects that weren’t core sciences. Some of those people have still ended up in medical jobs like nursing but they shouldn’t have had to wait till later in life. They should have been encouraged at school. Everyone should be encouraged to work their hardest and if they want to study science, they shouldn’t be put off from it.
Sue Willis, Development Chemist
I graduated in Chemistry from Leeds University and went straight into the coatings industry, working with a company called International Paint. When I started I was the only girl in a laboratory of 12. I’ve since worked with some lovely women, but we’re often in the very distinct minority. I’ve been throughout different companies in the industry, from family-owned to international companies. I’ve worked in processing as well as development work where I made sure everything ran to time and solved any issues in the plant. I did get promoted at one stage to being a Technical Director at a family owned firm, which was an honour.
If I was encouraging girls to look at science as a profession, I would say that yes- there are still some very masculine points of view in some industries, such as the paint industry. At the time, it sent shockwaves round the industry when I was promoted to Technical Manager, and then to Technical Director. There were some very old-fashioned attitudes, and they are going away, but there are still people of a certain generation who perpetuate that.
I think that while you need to be aware that it can still go on, the strength of a team is in its diversity, and women add to that. We don’t necessarily think the same way as men- we have different experiences- but it all comes together to make a much stronger whole. People used to ask if I was “one of the guys” when I went onto the factory floor and I had to tell them no- I’m myself, and I don’t need to pretend to be one of the guys. I think you should be yourself and not change your personality or the way you work because of the environment you’re in.