STEM is a little word, with big importance. It stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and it’s used to group together all those subjects that look at the physical, technical way that the world works. We all start off studying them in their simplest forms, though loads of us give up STEM along the way for more flowery subjects – and by ‘us’, we mean girls.

But perhaps more of us need to give STEM a second thought. And a third, and a fourth. Here’s why.

…because STEM subjects are fascinating

STEM can take you from the depths of the ocean to the furthest known galaxy – and everywhere in between. You can study the power of the sun, the movement of the planets, the algorithms of love, the beating of the heart, the ways in which prosthetics can replace limbs and organs, or the real secrets behind the most popular Instagram posts. Yes, really: that’s maths for you.

microscope

“Physics was always a subject that I enjoyed – but when we got onto the more advanced subjects, everything opened up and became so much more interesting. I also realised that I loved the applied maths and the experimental side of physics,” says physicist Dr Charlotte Buckley.

“I loved my degree. Studying everything from quantum mechanics or the behaviour of light, up to the formation of stars, galaxies and the universe was incredibly rewarding.”

…because they make the world go round. Literally.

We don’t need to tell you how big a role technology has these days. Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter basically own us – and if you can’t beat them, work for them. Or at least understand how they work.

Mathematics is, basically, problem solving. It’s the foundation of spaceships, of hydrology (that’s all things water, the reason you can have a shower each day), of architecture, accountancy – even democracy. What is voting but a numbers game? Scientists find cures for disease, contribute toward the making of everything from food to shampoo to cleaning products, and explore the universe.

space

Engineering, meanwhile, is not just building bridges or working on oil rigs. “It can often have connotations of greasy overalls and spanners, but in fact [engineering] is a huge world of professions influencing the world that we live in,” says Vicki Greenwood, a chartered civil engineer and a construction project manager.

Engineering graduate Milly Belcher designed a simulated human jaw at Bristol uni to test new, chewable medicines; then, interning at Dyson, she found herself “designing, testing and evaluating products that, stereotypically, are used by women” – though ironically, the majority of her the workforce were male. Sigh. 

…because they need more women

Dyson is no exception. The numbers are scary, especially when you consider how important STEM subjects are to everything we do every day. Only 9% of the engineering workforce is female. Just 20% of A Level physics students are female, and only 14.4% of the science, tech, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce in the UK is female.

“Women represent half the workforce,” Vicki continues. “STEM subjects lead to careers that have a direct influence on our world. The world is losing a lot of innovative thinkers by not factoring in the female population.” And it has a real cost: “A balanced team will usually be more creative and have a more enjoyable and caring working environment, in my experience,” says Vicki, and indeed companies are shown to be 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse.

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At school and at university, girls studying STEM are “in the minority,” says Milly. “You stand out.” Indeed, at her all-girls school, engineering was not even discussed as a possibility. “My friend and I were the first people from school to study Engineering at university, so application and career advice were limited. Later, at Dyson, she noticed her male colleagues struggle with making products like hairdryers user-friendly – “for example getting a feel for something like the weight of the product: it is difficult for men to contextualise what it feels like for a woman to use. I think that women can sometimes provide an insight that men may not have even considered.” 

…because studying STEM subjects does not make you a nerd

On the contrary, says Milly, “the majority of girls I met on my course were the opposite. They chose engineering because they enjoyed science and maths, but wanted to see a more practical, more creative side to those subjects. Outside of their studies they were heavily involved in sports, charity, etc – and had rich social lives.”

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“There is a very classic image of a woman physicist, which just isn’t true,” Charlotte agrees. “I have heard inspirational lectures from incredible women who have had to fight tooth and nail to get to the top of their profession.” The idea that everyone is super nerdy and can’t socialise is, she says (and I can second it, having seen her on a dance floor) totally not true.

…because they are NOT ‘men’s subjects’

Why do so few women go into STEM subjects? “Maybe young men are more confident in themselves and don’t mind taking on such ‘risky’ subjects, whereas girls are more likely to choose something they feel confident in,” Charlotte suggests.

i-believe-in-science

Of course there’s a perception that they are super hard – and we’re not saying it isn’t true. But that doesn’t make them ‘male’ any more than, er, cooking a soufflé is a female domain.

“There was one eccentric maths teacher who used to say ‘Girls should be in home economics’,” Charlotte laughs, “but I don’t think he was serious, and the three girls in the class would then get the best marks!” As she continued through university, “it became obvious that each person had different strengths in different areas, both technical and theoretical… I can’t really think of anything during my degree which I thought of as ‘male’ traits and ‘female’ traits.

…and it’s empowering stuff to know

After all, as the name suggests, everything starts with STEM.

science-everything

Check out STEMnet to find out more about the cool opportunities out there.

@finney_clare

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I’ve got a real love-hate relationship with group chats.

On the one hand, no one really has the time or patience to manually copy and paste the same sentence into a gazillion separate messages. We’re not about that. It’s way easier to moan on mass and gather important outfit info in a single shared conversation where, in theory, everyone reads and responds to texts with an suitably lol emoji at the drop of a notification.

But, we all know that’s not quite how it goes, is it?

Group chats are brilliantly chaotic at the best of times. If you’re anything like me and have roughly 19 on the go (and by that I mean 19 that exist but two that are actually ever in use), you might have noticed that they all follow pretty much the same pattern before fizzling out.

If they were all boiled down to seven stages, this would be it. Sound familiar?

1. The name game

What’s in a name, you ask? So. Much. Pressure. I’m pretty sure when Shakespeare threw that line into Romeo and Juliet, he wasn’t thinking about the stress of inviting a bunch of people into a convo and then having to decide whether to name it or not. But it’s about as stressful as what the star-crossed lovers were dealing with*. Kind of.

Obvs, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t name your group chat. But for the sake of knowing which chat is which and avoiding that tragically awkward thing of sending the wrong message to the wrong group, a named chat can be the saving grace you didn’t see coming.

*maybe don’t cite this in your English homework.

2. Who’s missing?

Working out who to include in a group chat is normally straight forward enough. But when it comes to those irregular chats, the ones with a specific purpose outside of your day-to-day gab, there’s always that minor panic of not including someone. After all, no one likes to be left out.

missing-kevin

Saying that though, once I panicked a bit too much about not inviting every single person I knew to a conversation and accidentally added the friend whose surprise birthday we were planning. Safe to say it didn’t remain a surprise.

3. Awkward side commentary

There comes a time in every group chat when someone goes rogue. They’ll say something that you’re not happy about, that doesn’t make sense or that really needs some thought.

So you end up having separate conversation with your BFF to talk about what’s been said, which then becomes a live commentary on what is (or isn’t) spoken about.  Then you end up chatting about a load of completely unrelated things and forget about the group chat you were originally meant to be paying attention to.  Which leads us swiftly on to…

4. The dreaded ‘delivered, read, no response’ fiasco

On a scale from one to annoying, this HAS to be at the top of everyone’s list of blood-boiling, forehead-vein-popping pet hates.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it. Sometimes we’re on our phones and then it rings/dinner’s ready/Netflix crashes/you fall asleep. The messages we were meant to reply to are then forgotten, leaving our friends with nothing more than two blue ticks and zero idea whether we’re okay with going as the Seven Dwarf to that fancy dress party. But still, it drives everyone crazy.

5. ‘Oh. Okay. Bye then’

You unlock your phone and open your app. You check into the group conversation to see how many people read your last message because as we mentioned earlier, people forget/get busy/don’t respond. Then you see the five words no group chatter is ever emotionally ready to read…

‘Jessie has left the conversation’.

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They’ve left. Like, gone. Without so much of a ‘bye guys’.

Sometimes it’s an accident and they have to awkwardly ask to be re-invited. But it never looks like an accident, does it? Oh, no. The rest of you are left scratching your heads wondering what on earth you might’ve done to annoy Jessie so much. 

6. Get a room

Ok, this might be what annoyed Jessie so much. There’s a time and a place to talk about the things that only really relate to a single person, my friends, and that’s in one of those old school one-to-one ‘conversations’.

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But eventually, inevitably, someone in every group chat will direct a question an individual rather than the whole group. Next thing you know they’re 58 notifications deep into a conversation that no one else can jump into. Take it outside, people.

7. Stalemate

If you’re lucky, by this time the whole reason for starting a group chat in the first place will have been resolved. You’ll all know what you’re wearing to that fancy dress party, the surprise birthday will be planned and that thing you needed to moan about will have received a hearty amount of support.

But then everyone runs out of things to say because questions have been answered and you’re left in GCL (group chat limbo). As other conversations overtake, it’s no longer at the top of your screen and your pocket pals are left in the wilderness.

At least, that’s until the next group chat is created. See number 1.

@JazKopotsha

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

1. Is this a joke? This is a joke right?

2. Maybe if I disconnect and reconnect it will work?

3. This is the worst day of my life.

4. If I keep refreshing the page, the internet will realise how much I love it and it will come back to me.

5. What did people even do before the internet existed? Play with… marbles.

6. How do you even play with marbles?

7. What if I turn to router off and on again?

8. I wonder if I could guess our next door neighbour’s Wi-Fi password.

9. asgT52zestylimes? Argh. Not that.

10. Password1? Damn, it’s not that either.

11. Why didn’t we just have a blackout instead? I don’t even need lights that much. Anything would be preferable to this.

12. Isn’t the internet like, a basic human right?

13. I’ll google it.

14. Crap. I can’t.

15. I wonder if I could use this to get out of doing my homework…

16. How much data do I have left on my phone?

17. How annoyed will my parents be if I go over my limit again?

18. Maybe it will be worth getting groun-

19. OH MY GOD IT’S BACK!!!! HELLO SWEET INTERNET.

20. That was the longest two minutes in the history of the world.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Katie Edmunds

So… er… sexting.

Sexting?

Yes, sexting.

What are you talking about?

Well, the definition of sexting is sending or receiving any messages that can be considered sexual. This means sexually explicit texts/emails, but most of the time when people talk about sexting they’re talking about photos or videos where someone is naked or half clothed and…

No, I know what sexting is, but why are you talking about it?

Because people don’t, really, and that means it’s hard to know what to do if sexting goes wrong and the person you sent your carefully posed selfie to decides to share it round the whole year. You can feel ashamed or guilty and like there’s no way out — but there are things you can do! Knowledge is power, so let’s make like Mario and level up.

The most important thing to know about sexting is that once you send a photo or text, you have no control over what happens to it. The person you sent it to might keep it to themselves or they might put it on Instagram. They might treasure it forever as a symbol of your love, or they might show everyone at the bus stop. It’s a big risk to take and you need to make sure you’re willing to take it.

If it’s so risky, why do people do it?

Lots of reasons. Sometimes because they just want to. Other times because they like how they look and want to show it off. But sometimes they send photos because they’re pressured to — their crush might be telling them they’re frigid or shy, or they feel like it’s a normal part of a relationship, or they feel like everyone else is doing it, or they keep being asked for them and it feels like it’s easier to just say yes.

The second most important thing to know about sexting is that you are under absolutely no obligation to do it. It doesn’t make you frigid if you don’t, you don’t have to do it just because you’re in a relationship, and I’d bet my laptop that not “everyone” else is doing it. If you don’t want to sext, you don’t have to. End of.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • It’s illegal to share private sexual photos or videos, unless the person in them says it’s ok.
  • It's also illegal to post, possess or even take sexual photos or videos of someone who is under 18 – even yourself.
  • If you don't want to sext, you don't have to. End of.

Um… I sexted someone and now I wish I hadn’t. What should I do?

Start by having a chat with the person you sent the messages to. Ask them if they’ve sent it to anyone else and if they’ll delete it. Hopefully it’ll be a no to the first one, a yes to the second one, and you can carry on with your life.

But even if things don’t go that smoothly, there are still things you can do. As awkward as it might feel, a good thing to do is talk to your parent/guardian or a teacher as soon as possible as the quicker they can get to the image, the quicker they’ll be able to stop it from being shared around and give the git responsible a good telling off.

The person I sent the photo to has put it on Facebook…

And this is where things start to get a little bit more serious. If someone is posting these photos on social networks, report the image and the social network should take it down. For other websites or just because you don’t believe in half-measures you can contact the Internet Watch Foundation. They’re like the Batman of criminal sexual online content.

Criminal content?!

Oh yes. There was a law passed in 2015 that means it’s illegal to share private sexual photos or videos unless the person in them says it’s ok. Sharing someone’s sexts isn’t just a crappy thing to do, it’s also against the law.

Also, if you’re under 18, it’s illegal to post sexual photos or videos of under 18s online. That’s a triple whammy of badness right there.

Although actually, it’s also illegal to possess sexual photos/videos or take sexual photos/videos of under-18s, which means that even if you’re merrily sexting away and not having any issues with it being shared around, even taking sexual photos or videos of yourself is actually breaking the law. Soz.

Okay, it’s been taken down and I won’t do it any more. Thanks betty!

No problem — it’s what we’re here for. Wait, does that make us the Batman of criminal sexual online content…?

But someone else is already pressuring me to send a photo. What should I do?

You can just say no, again and again and again until they get the message. Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If they’re trying to make you feel guilty for not sending a photo you can sweetly remind them that that’s emotional blackmail – anyone with half a conscience will leave you alone.

If they don’t back off, you can block them on every communication channel under the sun. And if they’re super persistent and still nagging you, ask for help. Show screenshots of their messages to your mum, their mum, a teacher, a local newsreader, actual Batman, whoever you like. You can always ask for help in dealing with it if you need to.

But don’t give in and send a photo just to shut them up. You don’t have to do that just because they keep asking.

Bottom line: it’s your body, and you get to say what you do with it.

Need more info on sexting? Take a look at the Childline site and watch their helpful videos.