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News > Alumni News > International Women's Day: Catching up with Ruth Gregory

International Women's Day: Catching up with Ruth Gregory

To celebrate International Women's Day 2023 on 8 March, we're shedding a spotlight on female Allanians who have gone on to achieve success in their chosen careers. 
16 Mar 2023
Alumni News

We have caught up with some of our fantastic female Allanians in celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March and found out what inspired them to pursue their different careers.

Ruth Gregory is the Head of the Department of Physics and Professor of Theoretical Physics at King’s College, London. She specialises in the field of cosmology. She attended Dame Allan’s Schools between 1974 - 1981. 

Tell us about your career and what inspired you to follow this path?

I am a Theoretical Physicist - this means I am both a lecturer in physics as well as a researcher. As an academic lecturer, we teach advanced physics to university students, so this part of my job is often easy to grasp. What is often less clear to students (and their parents!) is that we are also contracted to perform research, i.e. to explore and seek out new understanding and knowledge in our chosen discipline, in my case - the universe. Think of me as Sheldon Cooper (though perhaps without all the tics!) We try to understand how our universe came into being and what its structure is on both the very smallest as well as the very largest scale. These deep questions are what motivates us, and what makes the job endlessly fascinating and worth waking up for.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Since this was not something that was around when I started, it has not been embedded into my consciousness, but to me it represents a time when we can showcase women's achievements in science. So often, you go into an institution and there are a bunch of photos of old white men on the wall, so it's great to shake that up a bit and to put the spotlight on the achievements of wonderful women!

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity.’ How do you embrace equity in your daily life?

I'm not sure if it's embracing equity, but when I am involved in committee decisions, I always act as an advocate for equity - I am that pain in the neck that asks the difficult questions and challenges people on why they are taking a particular stance.

Which women inspire you the most? Did any particular female teachers inspire you?

Oddly, it is J K Rowling that inspires me the most at the moment. She has the courage to state the obvious and to stand her ground against intolerance and dogma. My most inspirational female teacher was my Chemistry teacher Mrs Straughan - she was so smart and so much fun!

Have you experienced any barriers in the workplace due to being a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?

Yes and no. There were obvious underlying biases, but if I detected something I would meet it head on and dance with it. In my generation, you could not moan, you had to challenge.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Apply for a research position!

If you could invite three inspirational women (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be?  
Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth 1, Margaret Thatcher - that most certainly would not be dull!

What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?

Do not doubt yourself.

Hear Ruth speak in person at her talk as part of ‘The Lectures’ series, To sign up for tickets click here:

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