STEMM Profile: Claire Harris | Consultant, Director/Founder | Innovate Communicate & Cowork Coplay | Canberra | ACT

“Curiosity […] has always helped me get past the low moments. “

Claire works with innovative, passionate people in scientific and technical fields to help them more effectively understand and connect with their stakeholders. She began her career conducting fisheries research in cane drains. Now she uses her marketing, communication and project management experience to help innovators in research, technology and sustainability define pathways to impact and communicate with customers, stakeholders and funders.

Claire has worked for state and federal government departments, CSIRO and universities in Australia, as well as in the UK. Since 2015, she has launched a few businesses; some moderately successful, others complete failures but Claire believes all learning opportunities are valuable. As a business owner with a young child, she found and addressed a gap in the Canberra market in 2019 by setting up co-working with childcare to enable enterprising parents to connect with each other and ‘get stuff done’.

What support structures did/do you have in place that have facilitated your success?

I am still working towards my definition of success, but I couldn’t do it without having my women in business tribe around me. In particular, I have a weekly meeting with my ‘accountability and mastermind group’. These women keep me sane and connected. I’d have given up long ago if it wasn’t for the supportive networks and mentors I’m so grateful for.

How do we keep more women engaged in STEMM‐related careers?

By creating and showing them there are opportunities and that there is solidarity to evolve our society past gender inequity issues. Taking steps wherever we can to change what is wrong about our organisations and society is critical. If we don’t, we will all suffer the damage and lost potential.

How can we change the organisational culture to improve balancing personal and professional commitments and be more inclusive of a diverse range of women?

1. Make sure targets and policies are in place and part of leadership KPIs. Creating the new environment overtly.

2. Make flexible working arrangements and paid parental and caring leave available to all; this will enable men to balance personal and professional commitments and free up their partners (where applicable). (Refer to WGEA’s messaging on this.)

3. Ensure that emotional intelligence, bias training and self-development is part of every organisation. If people don’t realise that their personal values, beliefs and stereotypes are influencing the way they view and treat others then this is a problem. Awareness is the precursor to change; people need to take steps as well.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

I’d try out different careers and jobs first and be more in-tune with myself about my strengths and motivations. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and learning in the last few years .

Are you a science communicator? Why and how do you communicate?

I am the Founder and Director of Innovate Communicate, a specialist communication and marketing consultancy working with science, technology, engineering and changemaker individuals and organisations.

Using my experience and motivations to assist innovators to make a better world I develop and implement creative and high-quality communication and marketing strategies and activities. These are always aligned with purpose to solve business and community problems. Innovate Communicate creates and delivers content and events both online and offline.

In summary: We work with the people behind the science and tech that matters and help them make connections that amplify their impact.

What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?

Curiosity. It has always helped me get past the low moments. Asking questions like: How can I move past this? Why am I feeling like this; what is the true root cause? What can I learn? Have others been through this and how have they got through? Who can I ask?

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in STEMM?

If you find yourself in an unhelpful (or damaging) environment decide to take steps to change it or move on straight away. It’s usually not worth the energy and upset while hoping things will change. I’ve got friends who’ve plugged away in the one organisation for 20 years hoping that the environment would change and they’d finally get their chance to be respected and shine. Unfortunately, they are still waiting.


LinkedIn: Claire Harris

Twitter: @claireharrisoz

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