Professor Macdonald, Professor Emerita and former leader of STEM engagement at the University of Reading, ran her signature quiz, designed to highlight each individual’s natural aptitudes, and to suggest career paths from STEM qualifications where these aptitudes can best be applied. The evening’s underlying message was that choosing a career based on who you are, as well as what you do (as defined by what you are good at), is likely to bring the most happiness and satisfaction, and that more employment opportunities will be available if A level and degree choices include science and maths.
Why mothers and daughters? “What is shown by research is that mothers are a major player in influencing girls’ choices. It is rare that those who seek to persuade girls also speak to mums”, says Professor Macdonald. "I have spent my career communicating to people about the importance and excitement of science in their daily lives and hopefully inspiring younger people, particularly girls, to study and build careers in science and technology. It is vital for our country’s continued economic health that we maintain and grow the science base, and women have had and will have increasingly a bigger role to play in that.”
Audience participation at the start of the evening confirmed Professor Macdonald’s theory that women tend to choose adjectives rather than verbs to describe themselves. From there, everyone selected up to 12 adjectives which best described their characters, and much self-knowledge was brought into play as mothers and daughters tried to decide whether they were diplomatic, impartial, inventive, creative, intuitive, persuasive, logical or good with money - selecting from a wide range of options. Filling in a matrix then revealed the professional areas which most suited each individual. There was much excitement and discussion as people found that they were essentially Persuaders, and/or Communicators, Developers, Supporters, Explorers and several other personality types.
Lower Sixth student, Cleo Byrne, said: "Personally, although I have a good idea of what I want to do at university, the presentation still opened my eyes to the wide range of careers that I could pursue in the future. Moreover, it broadened the possibilities of careers that many would never have thought about, allowing each of us to leave with a greater sense of confidence in the futures that lie ahead of us." Attending the talk with Clea, her mother remarked that the quiz gave "valuable guidance and support, especially for those students who are unsure about which A levels or university courses to pick."