Women in STEM Ambassador initiative wound up

By Lauren Davis
Friday, 31 May, 2024

Women in STEM Ambassador initiative wound up

The Australian Government has formally recognised the significant contribution of the Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, to advancing gender equality in STEM as it announces the functions of the Ambassador will be amalgamated into other programs. Today, 31 May, has been confirmed by Harvey-Smith as her last day in the role.

As the inaugural Women in STEM Ambassador, Harvey-Smith and her office have, since 2018, contributed research, tools and resources to help break down structural barriers that prevent women and girls from participating in STEM education and careers. But the role of the Ambassador was called into question when the Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review: Final Recommendations report, released in February, called for targeted changes to the government’s Women in STEM programs, finding that more effort is required to remove the barriers preventing people from all backgrounds entering and continuing in STEM education and careers.

The report recommended the formation of a dedicated advisory council to continue the advocacy and awareness-raising work of the Ambassador, while suggesting the Ambassador program itself should not be extended. The government has not yet officially responded to the review’s recommendations, although it did allocate an extra $38 million to Diversity in STEM programs in the latest Budget.

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic said he sincerely thanks Harvey-Smith and the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador for their work over the last six years, saying this work “has been important in helping us understand how to support more girls and women to thrive in STEM”.

“Following the release of the independent Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review final report earlier this year, the government is focused on improving our suite of programs to support more underrepresented groups to pursue STEM education and careers,” Husic continued.

“We need more women and people from diverse backgrounds joining our STEM sector, so that more Australians can go into secure, well-paid jobs.”

Another recommendation of the report was to expand the government’s Elevate: Boosting women in STEM scholarship program to more diverse cohorts of STEM scholars. The program, which is run by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), recently opened applications for its third round.

Funded primarily through the government’s Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Elevate supports women and diverse people with scholarships, skills, networks and opportunities to flourish and lead in careers spanning the breadth of Australia’s STEM-powered sectors. As well as generous scholarships to support undergraduate and postgraduate university education, Elevate’s wraparound approach provides professional development, mentoring and supportive networking that gives scholars career-building knowledge and skills, connections and relationships.

“With more than 2000 applications to date, the program is in high demand with diverse aspiring STEM professionals,” said ATSE CEO Kylie Walker. “Elevate is already helping scholars supercharge their careers and boosting their voices in decision-making in industry, academia and the public sector.”

Applications to Elevate are encouraged from diverse women and non-binary people, with ATSE particularly keen to hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; individuals from regional, rural or remote areas; people who identify as LGBTQIA+; individuals from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds; those from low socio-economic backgrounds; or those living with a disability. Diversity, inclusion and achievement relative to opportunity are considered in the assessment and selection process.

“Diversity is strength,” Walker said. “It brings new perspectives, creativity and people power, which are so critical for tackling our workforce shortages and advancing economic, social and environmental prosperity.

Applications for Elevate scholarships starting in 2025 will be open until 30 August 2024. For more information and to apply, visit atse.org.au/elevate.

Image credit: iStock.com/Ivan Pantic

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