The United Nations’ International Day of Girls and Women in Science is the 11 Feb. And International Women’s Day also approaches.

We applaud organisations for investing time to celebrate progress and highlight what more needs to be done to advance gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM). And, most importantly, take swift action, urgently.

Diversity crucial in research and innovation

Society and the planet need as many enthusiastic, talented people tackling challenges and solving problems with STEM.

On the blog last year, we provided 23 key facts about gender equity in STEM in Australia. 

What’s working; what’s not

For 2023, we wanted to explore what’s working to create gender equity across science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) fields and some of the pervasive barriers that still remain.

So, we asked 7 women in STEM to answer these questions:

  1. What’s the best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity? (In your organisation or somewhere else.)
  2. What are the biggest barriers to diversity, in your opinion?

Here’s what they told us


Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

Support for lactating mothers – nursing/pumping rooms. 

Biggest barriers

In terms of actually achieving gender equity at senior levels, it’s not changing. Biggest barriers are (a) the incumbents in the system that don’t really want to see it changed (b) cultural norms around women’s roles in child rearing etc.

Claudia Vickers

Chief Scientific Officer, Eden Brew

Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

Men encouraging and supporting women.

Biggest barriers

Work/home expectations including greater share of childcare.

Dr Catherin Galvin

President of Canberra branch of Engineers Australia, Co-Founder and CEO Viortec

Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

Quotas and specific targeting of women for roles.

Biggest barriers

Entrenched processes in organisations. (People don’t want to change their systems and processes.)

Hala Batainah

Executive Coach, Leader, ICT professional Humanosity

Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

Seeing women in senior leadership roles. It makes me feel I don’t have to worry about a glass ceiling and that I too am capable of something more. I have ambitions of being in leadership roles as I know I can make a positive impact, and when I see people like me in those roles, it gives me immense hope and points me to something tangible I can emulate. I have seen leadership programs for women implemented in firms and it’s a big green signal for me personally when a company does that for its staff.

Biggest barriers

Barriers to diversity start at a young age. One of the biggest barriers is having a fixed mindset. For example, saying things like “Girls are worse at maths or critical thinking”. This isn’t true (and it has been scientifically proven). 

With practice, anyone can get better at anything, gender is not a factor in that. Everyone learns differently and we should focus more on finding how a certain child learns rather than perpetuating fixed mindset beliefs.

Cultivating a learner’s mindset in kids instead of letting them think their current skills decide everything in their life is going to be very important if we want more diversity.

Tanya Dixit

Machine Learning Engineer, Crayon

Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

The only thing I have seen is requirements for women to be on interview panels. I don’t know if it worked.

Biggest barriers

I don’t think people who are hiring appreciate the benefits that flow from diversity in the workplace. I think they often are just busy & hassled & need that replacement staff member quick. They go for the candidate that feels right (while meeting the criteria) – so end up with clones of themselves.

Cathy O’Dwyer

Scientist and Laboratory Accreditation Consultant, O'Dwyer Accreditation

Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

Employing women in leadership roles.

Biggest barriers

Lack of examples of women in different roles.

Kishwar Rahman

CEO and founder, KR Digital

Best thing you’ve seen implemented to create gender equity

My team is all women, so in order to provide stability for them and me I need to be super flexible with employment contracts. All my team are part-time and to the best of my ability within the needs of the business, they work their preferred hours and days.

Biggest barriers

Doing things the way we’ve always done them. Not thinking of the big picture of how work intersects with people’s lives.

Deb Blakley

Paediatric Dietitian, Founder and Director, Kids Dig Food

Little girl with glasses is trying out the science experiments in a science centre.

Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. Sustain. (I.D.E.A.S.)

The UN is highlighting that, as a global society, we need to bring everyone forward for sustainable and equitable development. This year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGIS) focuses on the role of Women and Girls and Science as relates to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

They implore leaders to strengthen the ties between science, policy, and society for strategies oriented towards the future.

Why gender equality is “unfinished business”

On their website, the UN emphasises: “Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development. Moreover, it has been shown that empowering women spurs productivity and economic growth.”

We agree.

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