Statistically, female participation in STEM in Australia is considered low with only 16% of STEM graduates (Higher Education and VET) who are women, and 27% of the total STEM workforce is female. Whilst these numbers would suggest we are behind the curve as a nation, our homegrown success stories tell another tale.
Three women who are trailblazers for the burgeoning tech industry are Carmela Soares, Katie Ots and Emily Qureshi of Facebook Inc who despite their very different backgrounds and unique roles in the company, share a common love of technology and what it can do.
Creative Strategist at Facebook, Carmela Soares works with clients and agencies to develop creative ideas that experiment and push the Facebook Inc. platforms forward. When asked what drew her to the industry, Soares said, “I love how technology is such a flexible instrument for Creativity, which connects ideas to people. It enhances ideas, brings them to life, and makes them big or precise or interactive. Technology makes things seem magic. It’s also very intellectually stimulating as you have to be in a constant state of learning.”
Katie Ots is a Software Engineer at Facebook, London and uses programming language Haskell to build infrastructure and tools for working with Facebook’s already large and fast growing codebase. As a former journalist driven to make a difference in people’s lives, she was attracted to Facebook’s scale and the huge potential of technology to do good.
Ots says, “You don’t need formal training to get involved in tech. Envision something you’d like to make – a website, mobile app, smart home integration, etc – and use that project to motivate your learning. Publish the code, or blog about the journey, and you’ll be building your portfolio too. There’s a plethora of beginner-friendly online courses and the open source communities for many technologies welcome new contributors. To find local tech enthusiasts, try searching for makerspaces, meetup groups, or hackathons in your area. If these don’t exist yet for your region, that’s an opportunity to start a group.”
Emily Qureshi moved from Los Angeles to Australia and works as a client solutions manager in Facebook’s Global Marketing Solutions team, where she gets to combine her passion for brand marketing and technology to help Australia’s most loved consumer goods companies grow their brands on Facebook. She sees technology as a tool to bring people together: “Technology companies have literally changed the world and made so many things more accessible to people no matter their location and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that,” Qureshi says. “Facebook in particular interested me because it connected me with friends and family and allowed me to be there for all of their life changing moments from the other side of the world.” All three women agreed that to succeed in a field such as technology, the support of mentors are key – people who support you personally or professionally. Learning doesn’t have to be formal or face-to-face, take advantage of the online resources that are available, and don’t let geography hold you back either. As Soares says, “Curiosity and a smile will take you anywhere.”
We’d love to hear your thoughts on why you love STEM