COLLABORATIVE, diverse and inclusive company culture as well as access to networking and mentorship are critical to support career progression and retention of Women in STEM, according to Women in the STEM Workforce 18 keynote speaker and CSL Data Science head, Milica Ng.
Speaking at today’s Women in the STEM Workforce event and webinar (from 1.30pm-5pm AEST today, September 4) hosted by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute’s (AMSI) APR.Intern program in Melbourne, Dr Ng said she was proof women could have career success later and career changes and breaks were not a full stop to advancement.
“It is important women are supported with the flexibility to manage their careers and progression in a way that acknowledges their future potential and present needs,” Dr Ng said..
Dr Ng, who said she experienced her renaissance in her 40s when she was hungry for new challenges, believed women should not feel pressured to reach their career peak early or made to feel they need to accelerate their careers during time out or slowing of professional development. It is possible for women to have it all, but not all at the same time.
“To me, career pathways are more like a game of snakes and ladders rather than a straight ladder, the journey includes pauses and changes of direction, these are not full stops and shouldn’t be barriers to progression,” she said.
Women currently account for only 16 percent of the STEM workforce, with family pressures, isolation in male-dominated industries and lack of confidence –Tabcorp’s Advancing the STEM Conversation report (published in June 2017) revealed they are 55 percent more likely to doubt their capability than men – as key contributors.
Dr Ng is an APR.Intern success story. Having been originally placed at CSL through its PhD internship program, she now supervises interns herself to help drive her team’s research. The program provided an ideal platform to kick-start her career.
“Through the internship I found my way into CSL, which offered a supportive environment with ample opportunities for learning, growth and advancement. Access to industry, gave me a pathway to build experience and a professional support network to accelerate my career,” Dr Ng said.
APR.Intern has been running for over a decade – initially as AMSIIntern – to place emerging specialist research talent at the frontline of industry. Over that period, AMSI director, Geoff Prince, said that while the program had increased the number of female placements, 67 percent have been male.
“We are seeing slow increases but overall women are severely underrepresented across all areas of STEM," Professor Prices said. "APR.Intern is just one of the programs AMSI delivers to tackle gender equity across the pipeline."
Today’s event marks the first in a series planned by APR.Intern to identify and address barriers such as flexibility in the workplace, unconscious bias and lack of confidence, contributing to the low representation of women in the sector.
Dr Ng was one of two keynotes at today’s event, with Chief Executive Women president, Kathryn Fagg also addressing 120 attendees and national viewers of the livestream event.
With a focus on identifying and existing initiatives and new opportunities to address barriers for women in STEM, the event also included two powerful Q&A sessions featuring thought leaders and industry champions. Speakers included representatives from Westpac, Telstra, Alcoa, STA Superstar of STEM, IMNIS, Australian Academy of Science, Australian Research Council, Engineers Australia and SAGE Athena Swan.
“APR.Intern is committed to giving a voice to women in STEM and providing a platform to tackle systemic issues surrounding their engagement and career success," Prof. Prince said. "This is essential to building Australia’s ongoing STEM capability to support future innovation."
Women in the STEM Workforce 2018 is being live streamed across the country. The event will still be viewable online after the event on https://aprintern.org.au/women-in-stem-webinar/