“We need diversity in our role models to inspire all future students in STEMM”
Samantha Hood is currently studying a PhD in physics at the University of Queensland. After graduating from her Bachelor of Science/Arts at UQ as valedictorian in 2013, she decided to complete her Honours study in quantum atom optics. Samantha was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award to support her current research improving efficiency of organic solar cells. Her background in quantum optics and computational models, along with her passion for the environment, lends well to her current work.
In addition, Samantha is interested in science outreach, encouraging girls in STEM fields and science communication. Samantha was delighted to be a mentor in the Australian Science Innovator’s Curious Minds mentoring program for high school girls with an interest in STEM this year.
Do you experience `imposter syndrome’? How do you deal with it?
I experience imposter syndrome all the time! But so does everyone – and knowing professors who experience it and talk about it definitely helps keep insecurities in perspective.
How important are female role models to you?
Female role models, though hard to come by in physics, are so important. Seeing women achieve amazing things makes it easier for younger women to aspire to similar goals. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Nikki Stamp (#ilooklikeasurgeon) inspires me with her compassion and determination in a workplace typically fraught with chauvinism.
What motivated you to get involved in supporting women in STEMM?
I became interested in supporting women in STEMM when I noticed that my undergraduate courses had roughly 50:50 women:men, but less than 10% of academic staff in physics are women. The pipeline taking women from undergrad to the upper levels of academia and industry is leaking and having more women entering the system is not working. We need diversity in our role models to inspire all future students in STEMM.
How does society benefit from more women in STEMM and positions of leadership?
Women compose half the workforce but are not represented equitably in leadership positions – so we lose talent at the top. Diversifying leaders within companies helps them outperform competition, as well as adapt more easily to changing business environments. Diverse boardrooms lead to a 42% higher return in sales, 66% greater return on invested capital, and 53% higher return on equity. [European Commission, Women in Economic Decision Making in the EU: Progress Report, 2012]
What can we do as individuals to help the next generation of women in STEMM?
Raising awareness of issues such as unconscious bias (go to the Harvard gender unconscious bias test now! https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/australia/takeatest.html) that inhibit the progression of women to leadership roles is key. Mentoring and networking are also vital for helping the next generation, as well as being super enjoyable!