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Defense Science Chiefs shows what women in STEM can achieve when given a chance to lead

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The three people tasked with leading scientific efforts for defence in the UK, US and Australia met in Sydney, to discuss how to improve women’s representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) leadership roles: Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro AC, US Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

The Honorable Ms Heidi Shyu, and Chief Scientific Adviser for the UK Ministry of Defence Professor Dame Angela McLean.

In Australia, women currently hold less than 10% of leadership roles in STEM organisations, a figure that has remained persistently low despite increasing numbers of women choosing to study and pursue careers in STEM.

Chief Executive Women (CEW) president Sam Mostyn AO says the defence science chiefs exemplify what Australia needs more of – great leaders in STEM, with a meaningful representation of gender equity.

“We’ve made some progress on women’s participation in STEM, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Mostyn says.

“With STEM playing an increasingly important role in Australia’s economy, drawing on all available talent, and therefore giving more women the opportunity to lead, will only strengthen these sectors.”

A recent report from CEW and Boston Consulting Group examined issues standing in the way for women leaders in STEM and found many face pushback and exclusion, to the point where some
chose to leave the sectors altogether. Professor Monro, who has a long and distinguished career in STEM, said in comments before the breakfast that she faced many barriers along the way, and more must be done to support the next generation of female leaders.

“There are a number of actions organisations can take: adopting balanced interviewing, supporting talented young women, and ensuring foundational equity practices are in place. We must do all we can to retain and advance talented women,” she says.

“I wanted to change the world. That is why I chose science as my career. I am working in an area that is making a difference. Making a difference gives you energy, which is important in senior roles.”

Want to be equipped with practical tools and strategies to overcome barriers and capture opportunities? Join this year’s Third Sector Live event.


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