Tag Archives: role models

Superstars of STEM

Superstars of STEM announced today!

Thirty female scientists and technologists have been named the first Superstars of STEM – ready to smash stereotypes and forge a new generation of role models for young women and girls.

More than 300 applicants vied for a spot to be a Superstar, with the successful candidates to receive training and development to use social media, TV, radio and public speaking opportunities to carve out a more diverse face for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Announced today by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, the women will learn how to speak about their science and inspire others to consider a career in STEM.

Science & Technology Australia President-Elect, Professor Emma Johnston, said studies in the USA and other countries similar to Australia had shown female STEM professionals were significantly under-represented.

“Superstars of STEM is the first program of its kind and will prove vital for the future of STEM in Australia,” Professor Johnston said.

“Often when you ask someone to picture or draw a scientist, they will immediately think of an old man with white hair and a lab coat.

“We want Australian girls to realise that there are some amazing, capable and impressive women working as scientists and technologists too, and that they work in and out of the lab in places you might not expect,” she said.

“Science and technology have made our lives longer, happier, healthier and more connected – with more girls considering STEM careers, we have the potential to achieve so much more.”

Professor Johnston said the participants in this world-first program hailed from nearly every state and territory; from the public, academic and private sectors; and from all sorts of scientific and technological backgrounds.

“Participants are working in archaeology, robotics, medicine, cider research, pregnancy health, education, psychology and so much more,” she said.

“We have forensic scientists, biologists, mathematicians, agricultural scientists, neuroscientists, engineers, cancer researchers, ecologists, computer scientists, and chemists – just to name a few.”

Professor Johnston also acknowledged the support that will allow the program to thrive, including vital funding through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grant program.

“Over the next year, we look forward to working with partners like Women in STEMM Australia; the Australian Science Media CentreGE and many others to provide these 30 Superstars with valuable communications skills and opportunities to use them,” Professor Johnston said.

“We will be working to make sure you’ll be seeing many more women on your TV screens, hearing them on your radios, and reading about them online.”

“We also hope to support many more women in the years to come by extending Superstars of STEM beyond its pilot year. The universal popularity of the program in its inaugural year shows there is great interest for it to continue.”

The Superstars of STEM program will also include a mentoring component, designed to link participants with inspiring women in their sector who can provide insights into leadership in their field. Participants will also be required to share their stories at local High Schools to ensure they are connecting with young Australian women with an interest in STEM.

Of the final 30, 8 are from Victoria, 8 from New South Wales, 5 from South Australia, 5 from Queensland, 2 from Tasmania and 2 from the ACT. You can meet them by heading to the Superstars of STEM page.

This article was first published by Science & Technology Australia. Read the original article here

If you’d like to read more stories about STEM superstars, click here

role models

The power of non-linear role models

The world around us is undergoing rapid transformation by people finding innovative ways to use information and technology to better serve our needs. At the heart of these disruptive innovations are people with deep groundings in science, technology, engineering and maths – the STEM disciplines.

Critically, the number of kids studying subjects in school that lead to STEM courses is decreasing. According the Australian Bureau of Statistics only 29% of STEM graduates are women, and in the key disciplines of IT and engineering this falls to 14%. Low enrolment numbers for women in STEM have been a consistent factor since I was an undergraduate in engineering.

Today, Australia competes in the global race for innovative ideas with only half the team – the male half. If we are to develop new industries that move us beyond Australia’s traditional industries and allow us to be globally competitive, we have to change.

For a start, we have to help our kids, and in particular our girls, understand the wealth of opportunities open to them with a STEM foundation. We need to address any perceived or real bias in our high school exam systems and marking arrangements that discourage kids from taking up studies in maths and science. With the highly competitive nature of the results from high school assessments, we need to work to change views that taking STEM subjects could lead to any disadvantage.

We also have to recognise – as a positive – the fact that many STEM graduates will work in roles outside of the classical STEM disciplines. These are role models for a future in which interdisciplinary graduates are able to contribute to the transformation of traditional industries such as the finance, automotive and healthcare sectors.

In an effort to stimulate interest in STEM early on in schooling, Macquarie University runs the FIRST Robotics program in Australia for children in years K–12, with key sponsorship by Google and Ford. This program gives all participants a chance to work as teams that bring together mechanics, electronics, information processing, design and software development skills to build robots and compete with them.

This is an example of how we can not only inspire school students’ interest in STEM, but create pathways for them to pursue these fields into further study, careers, and entrepreneurship in a variety of areas. Today the program involves 5000 kids from 600 schools, and the total numbers of participants across Australia is rapidly growing.

Having stimulated interest at school, we need examples at universities and in the workplace that highlight the important roles that women with STEM backgrounds occupy. This is vital to improving the pull of women through universities and into industries where they are able to make meaningful contributions.

At Macquarie University, we are actively focused on building women’s participation in world-leading research programs through the Science in Australia Gender Equality (SAGE) program. We are able to celebrate the achievements of our world-leading female researchers, including role models such as Macquarie University’s Professor Ewa Goldys (recent winner of a Eureka Award) and Professor Nicki Packer.

Having shining examples of where STEM can take our young women is key to closing the gender gap. We need to expose women to the right kinds of images and messages, which involves having conversations around the non-traditional and non-linear career pathways available to them.

Professor Barbara Ann Messerle

Executive Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University

Read next: Deloitte Partner Elissa Hilliard says raising Australia’s STEM IQ means teaching girls foundational skills in their formative school years.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

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