As a child growing up in London, Zara Stone fell in love with the works of English writer Diana Wynne Jones. Jones wrote fantasy and speculative fiction for children and young adults. Stone reflects that the author “never talked down” to her audience nor questioned whether or not they could understand the intriguing concepts introduced in her books.
It is fitting then that Stone’s latest work, The Future of Science is Female: The Brilliant Minds Shaping the 21st Century, takes a similar approach. Each chapter in the book examines a different world problem (such as climate change and the future of work), and then introduces female scientists who are working on solutions. Young readers learn how this diverse group got to where they are and also how they overcame many challenging obstacles.
“I’ve done a lot of work in technology journalism and the gender disparity was always really obvious,” said Stone. “There were more men in the field at all levels, including startups, which in turn creates this never-ending loop. I wrote this book so girls can be introduced to women who are in the early stages of their STEM careers. The more girls hear about amazing people who look and sound like them, the more they can envision themselves in these roles and having similar experiences.”
Stone’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Wired magazine, Forbes, The Washington Post, the BBC and more. Before those successes, she was an intern at a British men’s magazine. In the book Stone recalls being on the receiving end of microaggressions that influenced the work she did at the magazine and how she was perceived by colleagues.
Her editor consistently only gave her assignments for products he deemed proper for women. Such items included a hair straightener, smart scales and even a pink laptop. When given a choice of products to review, Stone chose a new cutting-edge camera. Her boss’s response, “Why not take the electric toothbrush or hairdryer?”
“These kinds of microaggressions still happen,” Stone writes in her book. “In schools across the country, about half as many girls as boys are interested in STEM by eighth grade. That drops to 15 percent by the end of high school. That’s not cool. The world is getting techier and techier, and we need women to be part of its creation. If you’re not in the game, you don’t get any say in what it looks like.”
A Real Job
Stone is not the first writer in her family; her grandfather wrote historical books. She remembers seeing the joy he got from writing, spending time in his house full of manuscripts, and having an understanding that writing could in fact be a real job.
Stone went on to study English at Queen Mary University of London. After graduation and internships, she became a technology writer at the blogging network Shiny Media. The role introduced her to video journalism, which eventually led to an on-air correspondent role for SKY News and the BBC. Although Stone enjoyed being on camera, she felt a pull to shift back towards feature writing.
After completing a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, Stone accepted a fellowship at The Wall Street Journal. Her next role was on-air reporter for ABC News’ millennial TV channel. In one memorable story for the channel, Stone attended Mermaid Training Camp.
Today Stone lives in San Francisco and works as a freelance journalist. Her second book, Killer Looks: The Forgotten History of Plastic Surgery in Prisons, comes out in October. For girls aspiring to become writers, she offers this simple process to practice the craft:
- Keep a diary. It doesn’t have to be a traditional notebook; it could simply be using the notes app on your phone.
- Your writings don’t always have to be stories or journalism. Just sit down and jot down things that are amusing, weird or that surprise you.
- Every week open up that list, pick one of the things, and try to write about it for half an hour or so. This will give you the practice of being able to explore things that capture your interest.
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Photos provided by Zara Stone
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