Professor Tanya Monro, Professor Emma Johnston and Professor Nalini Joshi spoke at the “Future Of Science – Women” event at the National Press Club on Wednesday 30 March. The event was co-hosted by the Australian Academy of Science. The panellists argued that the culture and institutional practices within the STEMM sector must be transformed if Australia is to meet the challenges of the innovation agenda.
Renowned ABC show Q&A put politics aside for a wonderful and well-received episode on science, with three women in STEMM taking centre stage: Professor Emma Johnston (marine ecologist and presenter of Coast Australia); Dr Tamara Davis (dark matter and energy cosmologist); and Upulie Divisekera (molecular biologist and co-founder of Real Science). They were joined by Dr Alan Finkel (Australia’s chief scientist and former President of ATSE) and Professor Brian Greene (world renowned physicist and string theorist).
One audience member asked the panel to comment on the dominance of men in science careers post-PhD and whether there is “something that females find abhorrent in the current scientific review process.” Divisekera notes that women make up around 50% of undergraduate students in STEMM, but the gender breakdown comes down to 17% at senior roles due to subtle biases experienced throughout scientific careers.
Professor Johnston similarly references that she is one among the 17% of women STEMM professors in Australia; a fact that has remained largely unchanged for over five decades, with some science areas being worse off in recent years. Professor Johnston discusses SAGE as one solution, specifically referencing the partnership between the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering in addressing structural and cultural problems in science institutions that affect gender equity and other forms of diversity.
Professor Nalini Joshi, SAGE Co-Chair, will be part of the Future of Science: Women panel discussion at the National Press Club on 30 March 2016. She is joined by Professor Tanya Monro, University of South Australia Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research & Innovation) who, like Professor Joshi, is also a SAGE Sponsor through their ARC Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellowships; and Professor Emma Johnston, Head of the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab at The University of New South Wales.
Long gone are the days when Australian women scientists were forced to resign as soon they were married. But women are still seriously underrepresented in the sciences in Australia, and it gets worse the further up the ranks you look: in some disciplines, women comprise only one-fifth of senior positions.
So what are the barriers to women’s participation and how do they differ from those in other sectors? How do we overcome them in the current political context? And what does it mean for the future of Australian science if we don’t? Read more