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Science & Technology Australia

The Rise of the Superstars of STEM

There are many are talented and capable women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, but they continue to experience obstacles and unequal media representation in Australia. The national peak body, Science & Technology Australia (STA), has created an ambitious and remarkable program called the Superstars of STEM to address this.

 

The purpose of the program is to challenge the status quo; to shake up how women in STEM professions are represented in the media and to provide girls and young women with aspirational role models in STEM. Studies have shown that even though graduates of STEM degrees are around 50/50 gender split, those speaking about science and technology in the mainstream media are predominantly male. This is a grave concern, as this lack of prominent female STEM professionals in the public eye is leading many young girls not to pursue careers in science and technology.

© Science & Technology Australia

The Superstars of STEM mission is to “smash society’s gender assumptions and increase public visibility of women in STEM”, while highlighting the exciting and varied careers that a range of interesting people choose to pursue thanks to an interest or a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

 

In the first year, STA selected 30 women for their Superstars of STEM program from over 350 applications. These women were trained in advanced communication and participated in workshops designed to prepare them for building their public profiles. During the program, participants had the opportunity to speak with industry leaders, Parliamentarians, decision makers, and connected face-to-face with more than 12,000 school students across the country. In just one year, the women were also featured in more than 650 media articles, interviews and broadcasts.

The Superstars of STEM and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Burwood High, © Science & Technology Australia

The result of the program was outstanding. Superstars of STEM received recognition nationally for its empowering mission and was re-funded for a further four years by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. This extension has given STA the opportunity to expand and improve the program further and will result in 150 skilled female communicators by the end of 2022.

 

In the second cohort, STA will double the size and length of the Superstars of STEM program, to support 60 women over 24 months. As a peak body of more than 70,000 scientists and technologists in Australia, it is a focus for the organisation to see the full scope of disciplines, career stages and geographical locations represented among the next cohort of Superstars.

 

Superstars of STEM addresses the need for improved female representation in Australian media. The STEM sectors are some of the fastest growing sectors across the world, and to compete internationally, it’s vital that more Australians leave school with an understanding of, and a suite of skills in, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

 

Applications for the new round closed in October, and the next 60 Superstars of STEM will be named in December, and commence their training in 2019.