Industry Minister Karen Andrews has launched a nationwide search for the next 60 Superstars of STEM; brilliant women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are willing to become role models and raise their media profile.
The Superstars of STEM program launched in 2017 aims to challenge society’s assumption about scientists and increase the visibility of women in STEM.
“With women still under-represented in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – it’s so important that we have Superstars of STEM to inspire and encourage more women and girls to look at STEM,” Minister Andrews said.
Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the Superstars of STEM program gave women in STEM the skills and confidence to step into the spotlight and more visible leadership roles.
“It’s hard to be what you can’t see,” she said. “Women are still seriously under-represented in STEM leadership roles, and fewer than one in five experts talking about science in the media are women.”
Women only make up 12 per cent of the highest academic seniority level in STEM fields and 13.7% of CEOs in the professional, scientific and technical services industries.
“The Superstars of STEM program has meant more women STEM experts are now on our airwaves and quoted in our daily news bulletins. They also inspire the next generations of girls into STEM through school visits and public speaking.”
Since the program began, the first 90 Superstars of STEM have featured in more than 4,800 news stories across Australia and reached more than 18,000 students in schools.
One of the current Superstars, Dr Kudzai Kanhutu has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 challenge in the Victorian hospital system and became a regular on ABC’s The Drum television program this year.
Another current Superstar, mask safety expert, engineer and occupational hygienist Dr Kate Cole secured front page media coverage that prompted major retailers and state safety regulators to strengthen checks on masks and PPE equipment.
Aerospace engineer Dr Bianca Capra said the program gave new visibility to women as role models to inspire girls into STEM.
“During my whole undergraduate training as an aerospace engineer, I was never taught by a female engineer and really I didn’t see many people like me in the roles I wanted to be in,” Dr Capra said.
Antarctic geologist Dr Steph McLennan said: “Through the Superstars of STEM program, I’ve been able to become the role model I didn’t really have as a science-loving kid.”
Ms Schubert said the program was about building capacity in the STEM sector so more women have the confidence and training to be on the public stage and become go-to STEM experts in the media.
Ms Schubert said women from diverse backgrounds were especially encouraged to apply.
“We had women of colour, we had Indigenous women, we had people of white European background, and that was brilliant to see the range and diversity of women in science.”
Supported by the federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, the next 60 Superstars of STEM will participate in the program over two years, starting in January 2021.
Applications open on Tuesday the 4th August and close at midnight on the 31st of August 2020.