The University of Southampton

Female STEM 'roll' models show competitive spirit in fierce roller derby

Published: 20 March 2019
Over 30 skaters from STEM careers took part in the exhibition game. Image credit: Striking Places Photography.

Female scientists and engineers from the University of Southampton put in an inspiring display when the worlds of career and roller derby collided at a STEMRoller event for British Science Week.

Over 70 secondary school pupils watched the exhibition game and took part in a speed networking session with the skaters who have roles in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Dr Sadie Jones, or 'Shady Supernova' from the School of Physics and Astronomy, Joy Richardson, or 'JoyStixx' from Human Factors Engineering, and Jessica Stead, or 'Knitphomaniac' from the National Oceanography Centre, battled as Southampton's 'roll' models at the event in High Wycombe.

Roller derby is a contact sport where teams of skaters support or thwart 'jammers' as they attempt to lap opposing teams. Joy and Jessica play for the Southampton City Rollers, while Sadie skates with the Portsmouth Roller Wenches.

"Roller derby is a one of the fastest growing female sports, there are actually a lot more teams for women than for men," Sadie says. "I love that I not only get to roller-skate competitively, but I get to play this full contact sport surrounded by loads of incredible, strong and positive women. It's also a very inclusive sport in which all shapes, sizes and ages can do very well.

"Female role models in STEM are not always as visible as their male peers but we are here. We are all strong women who are literally 'smashing it' in both our scientific careers and on the track playing roller derby."

Sadie is a key member of her School's Women's Physics Network and helped Physics and Astronomy secure an Athena SWAN Silver Award and Institute of Physics Juno Champion status for its commitment to tackling gender inequality.

The STEMRoller event was held at Wycombe Leisure Centre for a select audience of girls aged 14 to 19, with the post-match speed networking providing a chance to ask about potential career pathways.

Everyone playing and officiating in the contest was a woman working in STEM, with some having played at as high a level as the Roller Derby World Cup. Players came from a wide range of industries including video game programming, helicopter engineering, computational biology, palaeontology and astrophysics.

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