My name is Honi Pein, and my mum is a Mum in Science. Through her varied career working in many scientific fields, including research and communications, she has inspired me to do things that far exceeded people’s expectations, including setting up an ethical clothing company, as well as to pursue a career as a woman in STEM.
Growing up, she bombarded me with biological laws and equations. After years of researching immunology at the University of Cambridge, my mum had acquired beyond enough knowledge to keep young me constantly fascinated with the world of science. I developed a love of learning that has only grown. The more she spoke, the more I asked questions, desperate to understand more and more. And I was proud of it too.
The presence in my life of such a strong female role model meant that I could really picture myself in this field of work and study. Whilst many girls hide their intelligence and knowledge in order to fit in, I would parade it around, telling all my schoolmates about atoms and electrons, and reciting the quadratic equation off by heart. There is no way that I would have done those things were it not for the strong backing of my mum showing me that knowing things is cool, and being a constant example of it.
However, when I was born, my mum gave up the research position. She found it difficult to balance being the perfect mother that she wanted to be and working full time. For example, breastfeeding for a year, said to be the best method, would not have been possible. But her love of science persisted, and she tried to think of ways of staying involved, earning money, and being there for me when I needed her (which was pretty much always).
In order to help others in similar positions, she set up Mums In Science. Additionally, she set up a very successful scientific events company, allowing her to work from home so that she would always be there when I needed her. As I grew older, I often attended these events. Even though I was not able to understand anything, I was exposed to the buzz and passion that arises when people working in the same scientific field come together to discuss their work. I knew I wanted to be part of that world, discovering knowledge, understanding what is around us.
A Constant Role Model
Furthermore, my mum’s ability to build an international company from scratch, whilst always being around to pick me up from school when I was ill, and throw birthday parties for me, and do everything you would expect of a really great mum to do, showed me that I really could do anything.
The way I saw it, she was my mum, a normal woman, and yet CEO of a household name in science. This duality was key. Seeing her as normal, approachable, personal, yet undoubtedly successful, made me realise that I, as a similarly normal person, could do the same. Why not? If she can, I can.
Having that example always available meant that I never had doubts. When I came up with my idea for a sweatshop free, ethical clothing company, I saw no barriers. Juggling school with setting up a business? Just like juggling kids and a business. If she can, I can. And we did!
My Ethical Clothing Company
My company, Glass Clothing, is an ethical clothing company which centres around the idea of transparency. As a response to the widespread allegations of companies involved with sweatshops and slave labour, we show you exactly who is behind the making of our clothes.
We communicate directly with tailors in Lahore, Pakistan, to make sure that every single person involved in the production of our products is treated fairly. In doing this, we make sure that no one slips under the radar – no one is invisible.
We provide details about our tailors on the website so that everyone is able to have access to information about how we make our products. This means people are able to see that no one has been harmed or exploited in the making of their clothes. This might sound ridiculous but is sadly the reality in many cases.
Looking forward, I know I want to pursue a career in STEM and academia, specifically in theoretical physics, when I finish school. Luckily, my mum’s success in the field has caused me to aim high, as I have the role model to show me that it is possible. This has been invaluable in the way I approach science. Sadly, many girls do not have this, and we can see the result as the small number of women in STEM is a problem in science. In conclusion, I would argue that exposing young girls to women who have achieved success in the scientific field is vital in solving this problem. However, this does not have to come from their mother – any exposure to a powerful and successful female figure can really help a child to visualise their future in STEM fields.
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