The purpose of the article series ‘Women In Science’ is to feature, showcase and share the reality of being someone that identifies as a woman in science. We gather and showcase stories, career journeys, as well as advice and wisdom.
Chloe: My name is Chloe Stockwell-Clark and I am the Group Chief Technical Officer for NuroKor BioElectronics. I am also the co-founder and the lead for our FemTech division, which is innovating some game-changing solutions for women’s health.
I come from a cell biology background, having studied it at University, and I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can make practical use of my knowledge as all of the science and technologies that we’re developing at NuroKor (and its verticals) relates to it.
My love of all things medical devices started from my time working for a Fortune 500 medtech company within trauma & orthopaedics. The hands-on experience I got there gave me a good understanding of medical devices, the craft of application and the impact of patient outcomes. From there, I became more interested in the area of bioelectronics, and spent a considerable amount of time researching it as an emerging area and learning of the enormous scope that it had.
My first role in this field involved looking after the scientific side of a small microcurrent business but, having noticed NuroKor’s more ambitious approach to this type of technology, I joined NuroKor shortly after its conception and have been there ever since. We have made some serious progress over the first three and a half years of our start-up jour-ney, which has been an incredibly exciting time for us. We’ve got a lot going on!
Chloe: There’s one story I sometimes give, and every time I think about it I get frustrated with how ridiculous it was! It was related to a time when I was at college, and due to some really challenging personal circumstances my grades were tracking on average (at best), But I knew that in my heart I loved science and its ability to be used in ways that can help people, and that science, engineering and tech could be used for things like Healthtech and to actually make people’s lives better.
I was struggling to find the right advice so I decided to seek support from the college careers advisor. We had a few meetings, and we spoke about what my ambitions were, and the fact that I really wanted to go to university and pur-sue science. At the end of the session the careers advisor said: ‘Based on what you’ve said and the questionnaires you’ve filled out, we have done the analysis, and we can now make some recommendations to you for what would be your ideal career path’. I was so excited, thinking ‘Oh, this is great’! But then she looked at me and said: ‘For you, the thing I would recommend is that you pursue a job as something like a golf course green keeper’. I thought that’s ridic-ulous! I mean – it’s so niche, and not in line with anything I hoped for! I said: ‘Look, I have nothing against that as a job, but that’s really not what I hoped to do’. She looked at me sympathetically, and said: ‘Chloe, it is not always about what you want, sometimes you just have to be realistic in life and realign your ambitions with what is realistic. You could do yourself more harm trying to go for something that is unachievable’.
I was gutted.
But then I was suddenly out to prove a point so I applied to the best universities in the country for biology and cell biology and earnt a place in one of the top 10.
From there, few people know of the risks I took, and efforts I made, in order to position myself in a place where I could get to where I am today. I had to make some moves that were tactical even if, objectively, they were a step down from what I was doing.
For the first medtech company I worked for, I applied for a maternity cover contract, intending to use that opportunity to prove myself within those 12 months. It resulted in a permanent position and two promotions within two years, which served as an awesome springboard for my next challenge and entry into bioelectronics. The first bioelectronics company I wanted to apply for was not actually hiring for a relevant position, so I applied for a completely different role that was available, just to get in front of the right people. They were impressed and subsequently created (alt-hough more junior) a role for me. I gained a huge amount of knowledge there, which served me really well prior to joining NuroKor. And I can honestly say that in NuroKor I have found the place where I belong, where I can thrive and feel most at home.
It just goes to show that sometimes you just need to be a little bit more creative to get your foot in the door for the chance to show how awesome you are. So if a more junior role becomes available, it’s still worth exploring. Someone may ask what’s the point of doing that, but if you happen to find a company that really aligns with your cultural values and recognises good talent, you’re onto a winner – it’s absolutely worth taking the risk.
Chloe: Gender clearly influences opportunities in science and tech sectors and its well documented – and published – that unconscious gender biases continue to affect women in all aspects of the workplace. The good news is that women now make up 46% of the total science professional workforce, but unfortunately, according to PWC, only 5% of lead-ership positions in the UK’s technology sector are held by women. This isn’t great when roughly 28% of the UK’s tech workforce is made up of women. So it shows that in some areas there is still a long way to go. This needs to start from the recruitment process all the way through to company policies and cultural values. I am not pointing a finger and saying there’s one process or one part to blame, but, unfortunately, it’s just an accumulation of factors that have an overall effect. But the sooner more of the issues get addressed, the less female talent we will lose.
Chloe: It definitely goes back to the actual syllabus within schools, and the exploration of the different types of science and technology beyond the standard ones that we do. However, one of the other things is the correct careers advice and encouragement for girls at the critical stages of higher education decision making.
Recently I’ve become a STEM Ambassador (science, engineering, technology and math) and I have found that young people have a real appetite to learn about new areas of science and tech, and we are so encouraged by how inter-ested and enthusiastic young people are to learn about the likes of Femtech. Unfortunately, they still only get taught about the main sciences and engineering within schools, and don’t know that areas such as Femtech even exist! Surely, young people need to know these things before making decisions about their higher education and career paths?!
Femtech is also an area where women have a unique advantage, as we (women) have a lot of insights into female human health conditions and are going some way to levelling the playing field, which is absolutely fantastic to see because, as we know, things have not been equal for a really long time. I often highlight some of the issues and ad-vocate for the need to address inequalities particularly for women in tech. I’m passionate about this because both conscious and unconscious biases affect women at all levels within organisations, and simply add to the number of barriers that women face within employment.
Chloe: A connection of mine started an incredible platform a couple of years ago called FemPeak. It’s very much about women supporting and up skilling other women, especially within tech. They defined the pillars that hold women back the most and target the areas they would benefit from the most support in. Using industry leaders to elevate other women is a really positive way to create an impactful support network. There are also other online groups for women in different areas of science and tech, which I would absolutely recommend. Whatever your position or area is, there’s definitely the resources for that. You just need to search and engage with them, because there are people who are very willing to help.
Chloe: Don’t let anyone tell you what you are capable of, or what you can or cannot do. If you even have the slightest inkling that something might be interesting to you, you just have to explore and go for it. It might not be totally obvious, but look at life sciences, it incorporates almost everything about the world around us – or engineering, it plays a role in much of our lives. I bet most people who want to go into these fields can pinpoint areas they find more interesting than another, and this then leads to becoming passionate about it and ultimately gives you your drive.