National Symposium 2016: Connecting Women in STEMM – the wrap-up!

Thank you for supporting our inaugural National Symposium: Connecting Women in STEMM, Sept 13-14 in Melbourne this year!

With over 230 delegates from academic research, industry, business, education and government attending, this meeting highlighted best practices and policies, including the Science in Australia Gender Equity pilot, and shone the spotlight on outstanding initiatives underway in leading science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) organizations.

A number of programs aimed at engaging girls in STEMM were also introduced, and several science teachers attended this session. Importantly, delegates extended their network across disciplines and professional sectors.

This was only possible thanks to the enthusiastic support, drive and dedication of our sponsors, speakers, facilitators and most importantly, our delegates. We hope you found this event as vibrant, as inspiring and as useful as we did!

Special thanks to our Sponsors

Without the commitment and generous support of all of our Sponsors this event would not have happened. All contributions – large and small – were immensely appreciated.

We say a special thanks to our three VISIONARY sponsors The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, The James Cook University and The University of Newcastle, our two EMPOWERING sponsors Monash University and Swinburne University, and our two BOLD sponsors, Google and the Burnet Institute.

A big thanks to all of our other sponsors as well – tremendous!

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Recognising talent

Inaugural Ruby Payne-Scott Keynote

To honour Ruby’s contribution to Australian science research and education, Women in STEMM Australia held the inaugural Ruby Payne-Scott Keynote. This prestigious Keynote recognises outstanding contributions by an individual that empower women in STEMM.

Recipient: Professor Sharon Bell, Expert Advisor, Women in STEMM Australia.

dsc_6840The Keynote was introduced by Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt and Ruby’s daughter-in-law Jeannie Hall was in attendance. Jeannie and Brian generously donated Ruby’s biographies as a gift to Sharon.

The gemaker Women in STEMM Award

The team at gemaker helps Australia’s smartest people take their ideas to the world which is why they provided the Connecting Women in STEMM Award.

roos 1 no glassValued at $600, this travel award supported a woman researcher who requires travel support to attend. In recognition of the contributions made to the Women in STEMM Australia blog and our profiles, a committee comprised of professionals from gemaker and Women in STEMM Australia reviewed contributor biographies on our site, and a number were invited to apply.

Recipient: Dr Rosanne Guijt, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania.

Education Perfect Travel Award

Each year the ASTA and Education Perfect STEM Challenge invites teachers to submit thought-provoking questions and from these, a winning question is selected for students around Australia and New Zealand to answer. This year, the highest scoring female student in the competition would also receive the inaugural Education Perfect Travel Award allowing them to attend Women in STEMM Australia’s National Symposium: Connecting Women in STEMM. The theme was Drones, Droids and Robots, the competition was to “design a drone(s) ‘inspired by nature’ that will improve one or more aspects of farming efficiency.”

Rena Tang PictureRecipient: Rena Tang, a Year 7 student at Meriden School in NSW.

Rena submitted a drone that was inspired by the hoverfly, Eristalis tenax. The design incorporated existing technology for surveying farmland, but also had functions to pollinate and water the crops. Rena recognised the potential need for drones that are capable of pollination in response to the decline of bee colonies. The drone Rena designed was covered with solar panels, and had a charging platform for times of low sunlight. The sensors for monitoring the farm, along with photoelectric sensors, ensured the drone could avoid hazards and automatically return home when needed.

Our gifts

Every speaker received a book by or about a woman in STEMM. Our special guest facilitators received a limited edition women in STEMM screen print entitled Pay it Forward by a young Australian artist, Eleri Mai Harris, commissioned by Women in STEMM Australia.

Hearing the latest

NAT SYMP 1Over two days, our outstanding speakers and facilitators shared the latest in best practices and policies through the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot of the UK’s Athena SWAN program, as well as key initiatives that are creating change underway within STEMM organisations in academia and industry, including a successful mentoring program at Swinburne University, a range of progressive policies at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the Women in Science Parkville Precinct-NAB partnership, unconscious bias training at Monash, as well as sponsorship, networks and more at CISCO.

An entertaining session facilitated by our Expert Advisory Board member Natasha Mitchell (ABC Radio National) about engaging girls in STEMM was extremely popular and well-received. A number of outstanding programs including Robogals, Career Trackers, Tech Girls Movement, Growing Tall Poppies, and several programs from the Foundation for Young Australians were introduced, and several science teachers attended this session.

NAT SYMP 2Our dinner was held at the stunning St Kilda Town Hall and hosted by The Royal Society of Victoria. Our warm, engaging speaker was Laura McKenzie, CEO and Director of Scale Investors, who was introduced by teenage Shark Tank entrepreneur and founder of Luv Ur Self, Ms Isabella Dymalovski.

NAT SYMP 3Jane Urquhart presented on behalf of the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Jane overviewed the Department’s initiatives to support Women in STEM and entrepreneurship, including the new WISE grants program. An interactive Q&A with Jane and her team followed, and this proved to be one of the most popular sessions with many delegates appreciating the opportunity to meet some of the people in the Department. One delegate excitedly said “The Department is normally an impenetrable black box to researchers, whereas this session made it real and gave it a ‘human face’”.

NAT SYMP 4An insightful, and at times raw and moving session, was a number of women sharing how they navigated breaks and transitions in their wide and varied careers. Women in business, industry, academic research, education and government shared their journey – honestly and openly. Women early in their careers can learn so much from these stories – tips and tricks to overcome hurdles, avoid pot-holes and be more strategic in planning forward. This session scored very highly in our post-Symposium survey.

Moving to the innovation space, our final afternoon focussed on shifting organisational culture, fostering an environment where more women in STEMM can lead and excel, and discussing how men can help by actively mentoring and sponsoring women in the workplace. You can listen to the talks by Professor Schmidt and Professor Joshi and also view our National Symposium Gallery here.

About Women in STEMM Australia

Women in STEMM Australia is a non-profit organization founded in 2014 which has grown into a nationally and internationally recognized not-for-profit association for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

Our core purpose is to advocate for gender equity and equality in Australian STEMM sectors, and support initiatives that drive change in the workplace and learning space, engage on gender equity amongst women and men in STEMM, whilst upholding core values such as respect and scientific excellence. Our role is to ensure women in STEMM with the capacity and capability to contribute to the innovation agenda are equally included, recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

The momentum this has stimulated is exciting and our 2016 International Women’s Day event and our National Symposium Connecting Women in STEMM were great successes.

Our inaugural Ambassador, Dr Leonie Walsh, was announced at our National Symposium 2016. Leonie was the first Lead Scientist of Victoria and has extensive expertise and experience in STEMM industries and manufacturing.

Our ethos

Our philosophy is “Pay It Forward” and we uphold the core values of scientific excellent and respect for all. Women in STEMM Australia has created a diverse, inclusive network of STEMM professionals at all levels of academia, industry, education, business and government, and includes all women in STEMM regardless of their discipline and profession.

Increasing the voice and visibility of women in STEMM

Our website and social media profiles are our primary platform for engagement and through these we connect daily with extraordinary people – hearing their stories, ideas and opinions, and networking like never before.

Our blog is our cornerstone feature, where women and men in STEMM at all levels write about their career experiences, their views on gender equity and diversity, best practices and policies, and their experiences of the changing nature of work in the STEMM sector. We also regularly post profiles of women in STEMM on our site – students and professionals – from around Australia.

Our audience is mostly women, especially those early and mid-career, who are looking for advice, role models, opinion leadership and insight. Our STEMM profiles encompass women in a wide range of STEMM professions, and have proven particularly popular with students and educators at high school and university.

Our leadership and governance

Women in STEMM Australia’s governance and strategic direction is overseen by an experienced Board of Directors and with influential STEMM professionals who are recognised advocates for gender equality, equity and diversity serving as Expert Advisors when needed.

Co-founders, Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea and Ms Michelle Gallaher each have over 20 years of experience in the STEMM sector with national and international experience in research, education, entrepreneurship and innovation. Dr Evans-Galea and Ms Gallaher co-own Women in STEMM Australia.