This morning Professor Rajini Rao and I spoke with Professor Siromi Samarasinghe for STEM Women. Siromi spoke about what it was like being a woman Chemistry Professor in Sri Lanka and how to better support students. She discussed how one of the main issues impeding women’s progress in science is the cultural expectation of marriage.
Siromi pursued her Masters and PhD at a time when not many women were going into the sciences, both in Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world. She moved the UK to study even though there was tremendous pressure from family and friends on her mother to get Siromi married off. Thankfully, her mother was supportive and Siromi was able to carry out her research on food chemistry with a focus on the fascinating chemistry of tea! Siromi was the only woman doing a postgraduate degree in any sciences at her university, and despite feeling isolated as a result, she completed her PhD studies with great success. Siromi went back to Sri Lanka were she would eventually become Chair of her Department – a role she held until recently. Read more about our chat below!