STEMM Profile: Morley Muse | Environmental Engineer | PhD researcher | Victoria University | Melbourne | VIC

“I am a very determined person and believe in giving opportunities my best. I believe in hard work and diligence. I also believe that we should not allow the fear of rejection to hold us back”

Morley Muse is an Environmental engineer and a doctorate researcher at Victoria University. Her expertise and skills are biofuels research, environmental consulting, renewable energy generation, waste to energy generation, water treatment, microalgae degradation, anaerobic digestion, lipids production, energy recovery and biogas production.

Morley began her journey as an engineer at The University of Nottingham where she studied Chemical with Environmental Engineering. She holds a masters in Sustainable Energy Technology from The University of South Wales, United Kingdom.

Morley is an established speaker, an environmental activist with experience in government and private engineering consulting and research. She is also a passionate advocate for women in STEMM and encourages young girls’ participation in STEMM disciplines through mentoring, writing articles and public speaking.

Currently, a director on the Board of Women in STEMM Australia and an Ambassador for CSIRO’s Innovation Catalyst Global, her goal is to promote gender diversity in STEMM and inspire the next generation to pursue STEMM subjects and careers.

What has been the biggest barrier you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

One of the most difficult challenges I have had to navigate through my life as an engineer was the decision to pursue my PhD. This was particularly difficult because the opportunity came 3 weeks after having my first son. Being an immigrant and having family miles away from Australia, I was confronted with the decision to choose between my career or nurturing my family. Knowing the implication time away may have on my career, I wanted both, so I was determined to make things work. I am blessed with a very supportive husband so somehow; we were able to navigate through the challenge together. After beginning the program, I realised that there was yet another challenge…being a woman in a male-dominated area. To overcome this, I pioneered Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) in Victoria University to empower and support current female STEM students and encourage the younger girls to pursue STEM career paths.

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

I would say ‘Resilience and Persistence’. I am a very determined person and believe in giving opportunities my best. I believe in hard work and diligence. I also believe that we should not allow the fear of rejection to hold us back. One of my personal favourite quotes is “When you ask for something, there are three outcomes…Yes, No or Maybe. Yes, is what you want. No means you have to look elsewhere and helps you save time and Maybe means if you can add a bit more effort, perhaps it would be a YES”.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful leader?

A successful leader should be a good listener, be empathetic, honest, committed and be able to inspire younger leaders by trusting them with work delegation.

How do we support the next generation of women in STEMM?

Firstly, factors ranging from carrier choice to lack of family support are one of many factors preventing women from pursuing STEM courses. According to a study conducted at Arizona State University (2011), factors such as: work life balance, time management, low self-confidence, lack of female role model, fewer numbers of women in science and engineering classes, and male dominated environment were revealed as significant barriers. Other factors cited were difficulty with the curriculum and gender discrimination.

Mitigating these factors has to start early within the family and primary school. Parents and educators should have non-gender roles and encourage kids to pursue STEMM related subjects from childhood. Exposure is important. As a young girl, my parents exposed me to different STEM subjects and did not base that on my gender, so it made it easy to dream without limiting myself. Also, the importance of mentorship can never be over-emphasised. It is easier to dream when you can see the reality of your dream. Having an engineer-dad made it easy to see myself as one without much effort. The more successful STEMM leaders reach out to younger girls and make them see their world, then it becomes easier for those girls to aspire those positions in the future.

If you could give one piece of advice to the current government what would it be?

Creating the right environment for the younger generation to dream is important for advancement of females in STEMM. To do this, the government can provide more science-based programs, funding and work opportunities. The current funding for women is very competitive and limited. For example, the diversity scholarship in most universities have very limited spaces and includes women and minorities, making it more difficult for more females to benefit from those funds. To resolve this, there should be a niche funding dedicated to women especially from disadvantaged backgrounds wishing to pursue courses in STEMM. The Diversity scholarship as of today is very broad without any known quota for women. Enforcing a gender quota-system in University admission for STEM may narrow the gap and contribute to the solution. In addition, having more internships or work placements dedicated to women in STEM is a sure means of encouraging females to take up STEM courses. Moreover, enforcing equal pay will help close the gender pay gap. Also, the government can recommend businesses to have women friendly workplaces via provision of breastfeeding rooms, work from home arrangements, and on-site kindergarten for large multinational corporations.

LinkedIn: Morley Muse

Twitter: @MuseMorley

Media enquiries welcome