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Murals of women in sciences exhibited across Edinburgh as 33rd Science Festival focuses on female STEM workers

A number of large scale murals have been painted on buildings and boards across Edinburgh in celebration of women in science.

As part of Edinburgh Science Festival, the giant art trail features nine portraits of women whose knowledge and passion have greatly contributed to the industries of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The trail, supported by science charity Edina Trust, is a visual representation of the festival’s focus on women in STEM this year, where over 60% of the guest speakers are female.

The large-scale murals can be found at different locations across the city, including  Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Zoo, Lothian Street and Summerhall and have been painted by artists Shona Hardie and Kerry Wilson.

The portraits showcase the achievements of nine women in STEM, from astronaut Helen Sherman OBE, to climate and racial justice advocate Zarina Ahmad, as well as head of conservation and science at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Dr Helen Senn and Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE – the youngest girl to complete A-levels in computing at age 11.

Hardie has painted six out of the nine murals, and said she was delighted to represent each woman’s achievement through her art.

“I think there’s been a definite shift in the last few years in terms of how women are being represented both in STEM, and in general, and it’s amazing to see that at this year’s science festival there are more female than male speakers, that’s incredible,” she said.

“Even within the street art and mural scene there’s definitely more spaces for women and more of a culture of lifting each other up.”

She added: “I do think in the last year with the big social changes that it’s so important if you do have a platform to comment on things we need to work on as a society.

“Mural art is accessible to everyone so I think it’s a great way for people to see art and get social messages across.”

Festival organisers say they hope the portraits will highlight Edinburgh Science’s fight against the under-representation of women in STEM and the stereotypes that persist within the industries, with less than 30% of the world’s researchers being female. 

But despite smaller numbers of women in the scientific fields, according to the UK Department for Education, the picture for women in STEM looks brighter than ever before.

Between 2011 and 2020, the number of women accepted onto full-time STEM undergraduate courses increased by 50.1% in the UK.

And within the same period, the proportion of women entering full-time undergraduate courses taking STEM subjects increased from 33.6% to 41.4%.

Festival Director Amanda Tyndall said: “Promoting opportunities for women in STEM is a topic very close to my heart and this year not only is our programme packed with amazing women talking about fascinating science but the street art trail takes this message to the streets of Edinburgh and, we hope, will play a small part in inspiring the next generation.”

Edinburgh Science Festival, until July 11.