Dr Gemma Lavender on Pursuing a Career in STEM Subjects

Dr Gemma Lavender on Pursuing a Career in STEM Subjects
March 8, 2018 kgreene

Happy International Womens Day! We caught up with another of our inspiring women, Dr Gemma Lavender. Gemma is our Editor of All About Space and has recently been awarded a PhD in Astrophysics!

What’s it like being the editor of a space magazine?
I love coming into work every day – I get to keep on top of the latest space research, speak to astronauts, space scientists and astronomers who are leads in their field and get completely absorbed in a subject I’m passionate about. You see a product every month that’s going to get someone really excited about the universe or got them to either invest in a telescope or look up at the night sky for the very first time.

You’re currently the only female editor of a commercial space magazine in the world. Is that something you’d say is noticed?
It’s commented on quite frequently – I think more out of surprise, given that space science is considered to be very male-dominated. In fact, I’ve been contacted by a female reader who has mentioned that it feels like it’s made science journalism – particularly in space science – feel like a much more achievable career path. It’s lovely to hear. On the other side of the coin, I’m contacted by our male readers, too, who have told me that the magazine has inspired them to get into observing the night sky again. While the magazine is predominately read by males, its female readership is steadily increasing. The magazine’s team also has a good mix of male and female members.

My background is in astrophysics, so I’m the perfect fit for All About Space. When I was in academia there were very few women taking astronomy, space or physics courses. That’s improving though and recently I’ve seen a nice gender split on the exact same course I took. Even better, we’re seeing a healthy mix of genders becoming astronauts, space scientists and astronomers. Of course, there are sadly young women who aren’t confident in entering a male-dominated industry – personally, I wasn’t phased; the pull of getting into a very exciting scientific field completely outweighed everything else. And that’s the important thing to remember here – if you’re passionate about something – whether it’s in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) subject or in something else entirely – then get involved. Speaking as someone with a scientific background, we’re much more focused on making the next greatest discovery – and we want you, whether you’re male or female, to help us find it.

What made you decide to get into publishing?
I see it as one of many channels to enthuse or speak to a community. I just love seeing people reading about something they’re passionate about or finding out something new and telling their friends and family about it – they’re sharing the knowledge. When you’re an editor or any other team member on a magazine, you’re a part of making that happen. It’s a huge honour.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give young women wanting to get into a STEM subject or starting out in their career?
Clear any doubts off the table. If you know it’s where you want to be, then nothing else matters. Just go for it!

What has been a career highlight at Future so far?
I get to work with an incredible bunch of people who are passionate about what they do. Passion drives people to do some pretty incredible things – you can see that in action at Future not just inside the company but outside it on the newsstands and at our events. We’re always driving each other to be at our best.