Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

The Everyday Lives of Women in Science: A Photography Collaboration

As discussion of how to slow the rate of attrition of women from scientific careers takes place at an institutional level, a new series from photographer Fanny Beckman invites the viewer to observe women from the Centre for Gene Therapy & Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London at work in a more intimate way.

Pursuing a career in academic research is hard. To climb to the top, you must follow a series of competitive and demanding steps from undergraduate to PhD to postdoctoral researcher to principal investigator. Researchers will often evoke the metaphor of a pipeline to describe how individuals are funnelled through this rigid career path. And the pipeline is full of holes. In the UK, 60% of bioscience postgraduates are women whilst only 15% of professors are women. Just 9% of professors in chemistry are women, a drop of from an already underrepresented 35% at undergraduate level [2]. This “leaky pipeline” is a well-documented phenomenon describing the progressive loss of women, particularly those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds [3], from key stages of academic careers. There are important discussions ongoing on how to plug the cracks caused by obscure biases and barriers in academia and increase workplace diversity in the interest of both the underrepresented groups and better scientific research [4,5].

Women in Science Examples

Some photos featured in the exhibit.

The women at the Centre for Gene Therapy & Regenerative Medicine have lent their voices and faces to the discussion as part of the Women in Science photography project with photographer Fanny Beckman. The series depicts the everyday working lives of the women behind the statistics, capturing an interest, joy, and confidence in their work that is often missing from discussions of women in science. The written stories which accompany the photos cover the hardships they have faced in their careers – looming imposter syndrome and workplace discrimination – but more often focus on their successes and highlight the support systems that have made their experiences positive, support systems that should be available to all women.

Time and time again, these stories herald the women who have acted as role models to them, “I have had strong female role models throughout my science career as all my supervisors to date have been very successful women. I believe these women inspired me to be the scientist I am today,” Dr Christina Philippeos, a postdoctoral researcher, writes, “Although a great gender disparity exists in science, I feel fortunate to be a woman in science today.” But Philippeos also discusses the difficulty of balancing new motherhood and a demanding academic career where support is not always provided, “The lack of job security is concerning when you have a family to support. It was only recently, in becoming a mother myself, that this resonated with me.”

Photographer Fanny Beckman, previous winner of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers, is familiar with using art to raise awareness of social injustice. Her previous exhibitions explore challenging topics such as domestic abuse and mental health. This experience represented something new to her. "I had the opportunity to visit science labs for the first time and met some of the incredible women working at Centre for Gene Therapy & Regenerative Medicine,” Beckman writes, “As a photographer, I work within a male-dominated field myself and this project sparked many interesting conversations regarding breaking gender bias and pursuing your dream career.” Just as the subjects of her photography spoke of their own role models, Beckman highlights the importance of good representation and female role models that this project hopes to provide, “These photos prove that it is, beyond doubt, possible to not only start a career as a woman scientist but also to climb the ladder. If you can see it, you can be it, and "Women in Science" provides representation for the next generation of scientists."

Women in science photography exhibition Attendees

Attendees of the Women in Science Photography Exhibition

The project was exhibited in the Great Hall at King’s College London’s Strand Campus, seeing over 150 visitors in just one evening with one visitor saying that the “pictures perfectly captured the personalities of each person and the descriptions made them come to life”. The exhibition space also became a hub of conversation on female representation both in and out of science and the impact it can have. Amongst the visitors, many young women hoping to pursue a career in science browsed the gallery of those who have comes before them. Estelle, a graduate in Biological and Chemical sciences, said the exhibit was “truly inspirational” and “encouraged me to get back into academia and the event gave me a chance to network and meet some wonderful students and scientists”. Melissa, as second-year undergraduate student in physics, a historically male dominated field, said she felt “more confident to go into research after seeing women thriving in that environment”. She also highlighted the stories which provided advice, like the method that postdoctoral researcher Priyanka Bhosale uses to fight imposter syndrome. “[I] keep listing all the positives and achievements I have, no matter how big or small they are. Going back and reading them made me realise how much I have achieved.”

The Women in Science Photography project is now featured at the Centre for Gene Therapy & Regenerative Medicine and an online gallery will be available to view online soon. If you would like to arrange a visit to the Centre, please contact 

Women in STEMM Season

A month-long celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

Latest news