One of the UK's leading space experts has insisted that, with courage and conviction, anyone can achieve their career aims, noting the changing boundaries of employment on International Women's Day.

Libby Jackson, the human spaceflight and microgravity programme manager at the Swindon-based UK Space Agency, has pointed towards her agency's 50:50 gender split as a sign that opportunities are open for women to pursue traditionally male-dominated roles.

"We live in a world where everything we do, and the vast majority of anything you ever buy, is developed scientifically or technically somewhere along the line. It is important that everybody has an understanding of science and maths.

"Historically, because of the way that society has evolved over hundreds and thousands of years, women have tended not to do that, and this allowed preconceptions to build that science is not for women, not for girls.

"What I really hope to see is a situation where everybody understands that regardless of any labels society put on them – not just gender, but race, disability, etc. – you can do what you want to do."

The UK Space Agency is, unexpectedly for an agency where government and science cross over, staffed 50 per cent by women.

Libby says that this should be an encouragement for anyone choosing STEM subjects at school, or setting out on a career in science, technology or engineering, that anything is possible.

She said: "It’s not because we’ve gone after positive discrimination, it’s just the way it has ended up – we’ve hired the best people for the jobs. I think it’s a great thing to celebrate, and a great thing to acknowledge.

"It’s across the grades – it’s not just in traditionally female-dominated roles. We have male PAs, female accountants and engineers.

"If you have the courage and conviction and strength to follow your dreams, then things are much, much better than they used to be."