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Challenges in STEMM a focus for International Women’s Day

9 March 2017

Women in STEMM, 2serCelebrated on 8 March, International Women's Day prompts action around the world in celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The Women in STEMM Broadcast, which aired on Wednesday 8 March 2017, features a panel of noteworthy women discussing current challenges and plans for the future for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine/health (STEMM).



Emma Lancaster, 2ser

Listen online 107.3 2ser (audio length 53 mins)

The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is be bold for change, a message which acknowledges the lack of representation of women in STEMM industries. With a substantial portion of the nation’s economic viability bound up in STEMM, the all-female panel are asked where women’s place is in the innovation agenda.

Professor Elizabeth Sullivan says it is "really to be there, represented just like men. There is enormous opportunity for women to contribute to innovation. What we need to do is build up our numbers and our pipeline into engineering, IT, medicine and maths,  and for women who go into those disciplines, to give them equal opportunities so that they can contribute equally.”

Professor Sullivan continues, “The best workforce is a diverse workforce. We need diversity, and that includes gender and diverse cultures. That’s when we’ll get the most innovation.”

Panel members reveal there has been no traditional pathway or model to lead them to where they are in their respective careers.

Professor Liz Harry says the move to UTS opened her to a growing culture of progressiveness, diversity and equity. “It’s enabled me to be who I am in science, and that’s been quite hard in many ways because the culture of science is very male-oriented. It’s very hard because some of the things we feel strongly about and how we practice our science is quite different to the culture that is.”

Professor Sullivan, whose career in health spans 32 years, says, “For me it wasn’t a straightforward journey; it was opportunity, looking at things from a different perspective and doing my own path. That can be good and bad because you get to do lots of different opportunities, but you sometimes don’t fast-track”.

What is paramount, she says, is allowing young people to excel at science, maths and computing from an early age in school and instilling the panorama for them to see opportunity and themselves fitting in. This, leading to well-defined and supported careers with strong development programs and workplace policies, can ensure that women can pursue and succeed in these careers.

“And what do we get back? Enormously committed people who are passionate and who have enormous loyalty for institutions if you allow them to have opportunities to flourish”, says Professor Sullivan. “We have moved from ‘aspiring’ to now young people ‘expecting’ it to be equal… What we want is to maintain that boldness that ‘yes, it should be the same’. We should be able to do everything, women and men”.

Listen online