In 2016-17 just 25% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) graduates were women, a statistic that Biovault has turned on its head. Here not only the Chief Executive Officer but the Chief Financial Officer, Medical Director and a large proportion of the biotech company’s scientists, administrators and advisors are also women. “It wasn’t deliberate,” says CEO, Kate, “they were simply the best candidates for their jobs.”
The underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM subjects is, as Women in Stem Plymouth (WISP) explains, “bad for everyone – not just women and girls – because it limits the diversity of ideas and perspectives in some of the most important, creative, and productive areas of our society.”
Plymouth is no exception to this trend, and WISP exists to try to change this. 400women is a collaboration between the organisation and the Mayflower 400 programme which commemorates the 400th anniversary of the pioneering voyage of the Pilgrim Fathers from Plymouth Harbour to North America in 1620.
As the manager of the UK’s only human tissue bank to work in partnership with the NHS, Kate Sneddon is a shining light for the Women in STEM cause. Before joining Biovault in July 2009 as Operations Manager, Kate studied Microbiology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne after which she worked at GlaxoWellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline) as a Graduate Microbiologist and then Microbiology Team Manager, Lean Sigma Expert and Value Stream Leader. At Biovault Kate specialises in the processing and cryogenic storage of stem cells for medical applications.
400women is important to Kate, who has two daughters of her own and is keen to inspire girls and women to follow their interests, whether the path is rough or smooth.
Asked what advice she would give to women interested in a stem career she said, “f you are interested in something, pursue it!! And when things don’t go to plan or go spectacularly wrong, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, that’s when you learn and things get really interesting.”
2020 promises to be an extraordinary year for Plymouth, the UK’s city by the sea, and with women like Kate stepping up to inspire our future pioneers we’re optimistic that it will mark a new, more equal, future.