GIRLS need a rounded education that does not shut them off from science at an early age, Mary Archer told the conference.
"There are too many challenges that face the country and the world that are amenable only by science," she said.
"How to feed a world where the population expands by 9,000 per hour, how to have an energy supply for that population that doesn't rape and pillage the earth, how to cure disease.
"These are issues that concern us all - men and women - but women especially. They have a particular concern about their children and the next generation. "
Mary Archer is a visiting professor at Imperial College, London, a trustee of the Science Museum, and a companion of the Institute of Energy.
She said that in the UK there was a tendency to stream pupils at an early age forcing them to decide too soon whether they were for or against science.
Shutting off science to girls was damaging and dangerous, she added. "Some parents would accept their girls' innumeracy but wouldn't accept illiteracy. To be innumerate and scientifically illiterate is downright dangerous. I would argue for greater breadth in education and later specialisation."
"Many of the skills in science - accuracy, numeracy and honesty - export well into other areas. Science is all about precision, accuracy and numeracy. The rest of life is about alcohol, cholesterol and protocol."