STEM is one of the fastest growing and most highly paid areas to work in Australia, yet women still only account for 16 per cent of the workforce in Australia and 3 per cent of executives or CEOs in the industry. It was this that led senior female leaders to set up a program designed to help improve equal representation at the C-suite level – and not surprisingly, the 2022 entrants were oversubscribed by five times the possible intake.
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to change the STEM industry and we won’t stop until 50 per cent of the workforce in STEM are women. It’s programs like WILD that are working towards changing the gender disparity that exists and preparing women for board roles where change is likely to happen,” says Dr Bronwyn Evans AM, CEO, Engineers Australia and WILD Advisory Board member.
“STEM experts really have a significant role to play in shaping the future of Australia and women have a unique perspective they can bring to the industry. As leaders, now is our opportunity to bring through the best and brightest women to come onto boards and into companies and the WILD program is working towards this.”
Thanks to over $1 million from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women, the WILD Program founders, in collaboration with Brandon BioCatalyst, formerly the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), have been able to launch the 2022 program to support women in STEM.
Liz Williams, Co-Founder, Director & Chief Executive Officer of start-up Hemideina, a company that is developing a novel hearing device for treating disabling hearing loss, was a successful applicant. Dr Williams hopes the program will increase the credibility of women in STEM leadership roles through the formal qualification the program offers. Hemideina is a female-run company, employing 8 people.
“Working in a male dominated space has posed several challenges for us and has been evident through our journey for investment,” said Dr Williams. “Women have to work so much harder than men to prove their credentials, capabilities and the investment opportunity. More rigorous criteria are applied, and that’s just not on. Having the opportunity to build confidence and credibility through the WILD Program will hopefully help with this process and gives the opportunity to hear from like-minded women who have navigated similar experiences.
“Often a woman’s ability is discredited because of her gender alone. The value of having women in both executive roles, and at board level, who can bring a unique perspective to organisational challenges, has still to be realised.”
Fellow 2022 participant and Senior Civil Engineer at Aurecon, Emily Harris acknowledges that there are industry issues with having role models for women in STEM.
“One of the issues women face in STEM surrounds the lack of female role models in senior positions for those starting out in the industry to look up to,” said Emily. “Although the industry is changing, women still need to seek out these role models as they are not generally easily identifiable.”
“It’s exciting to take part in the 2022 WILD Program as it gives us the opportunity to be around like-minded ambitious women and we collectively will be part of the change of tipping the gender balance in the right direction towards women in STEM leadership.”
The WILD PROGRAM
The WILD Program was founded by three under-40, PhD-qualified women: Dr Nadine Brew (Portfolio Manager, Brandon Capital), Dr Lauren Giorgio (Chief Operating Officer, GPN Vaccines) and Dr Udani Reets (Director Partnerships, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre). With first-hand experience in the sector, their own experiences highlighted the need for an initiative to help develop the next generation of female STEM leaders.
It consists of three parts: completing recognised governance training, an executive leadership retreat and participation in board meetings for a STEM-related company, so as to gain mentorship and firsthand experience working in a senior management setting.
Dr Chris Nave, CEO of Brandon BioCatalyst, Director of the Australian Investment Council and an industry Champion of Change highlights the importance of programs such as WILD, “Through initiatives such as the WILD Program, we are growing the pool of talented, experienced and credentialed female leaders available to take on senior leadership and board positions. It is now time for companies to champion diversity in leadership through recruitment and promotion of women in STEM in their key decision-making groups.”
WILD 2022 participants
- Dr Alison Thistlethwaite, Operations Manager, MecRx Pty Ltd
- Allira Hudson-Gofers, Practice Group Leader – Engineering and ICT Patents. Spruson and Ferguson
- Dr Amanda Buttery, National Manager Clinical Evidence, National Heart Foundation of Australia
- Dr Angie Montgomery, Director and Founder, Cortext and Incheq
- Anne Conlon, Senior Development Manager, Sita Aerospace
- Anita Govender, Engineering Manager, UGL Limited
- Associate Professor Branwen Morgan, Mission Lead, CSIRO
- Claire Rosenberg, Senior Manager, Global Supply Chain and Digital transformation, The LEGO Group
- Dr Elise Needham, Associate Director, Biopharmaceuticals, Product Management Operations, Boehringer Ingelheim
- Emily Harris, Senior Civil Engineer, Aurecon
- Emma Lucia, Deputy Director, Development (STEM). Monash University
- Hannah Crowther, Deputy Transport Manager, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) Engineering
- Dr Kate Porter, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Crux Biolabs
- Kathryn Jowett, Senior Business Performance Manager, AusNet Services – Mondo
- Krystel Boland, Practice Lead, Senior Experience Designer and Managing Consultant, Pragma Partners
- Dr Liz Dallimore, Chief Executive Officer, Argenica Therapeutics
- Dr Liz Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Hemideina Pty Ltd
- Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea IMNIS Executive Director, Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering
- Dr Megan Astle, Associate Director, MRFF and Major initiatives, University of Melbourne
- Dr Pandora Patterson, General Manager – Research, Policy & Patient Programs, Canteen
- Dr Patricia Vietheer, Director – R&D Strategy & Planning, Biointelect Pty Ltd
- Susan Lloyd, Design Coordinator – Civil and Environmental Engineer, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) Engineering
- Dr Tamsin Terry, Director, Commercialisation – Life Sciences, UniQuest Pty Ltd
- Dr Tich-Lam Nguyen, Chief Operating Officer, ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET)
- Vanessa Waddell, Head Commercial Operations and Business Development, PolyActiva PTY, Ltd
The Women in Leadership Development Program was developed for STEM women, by STEM women. It is run by three under-40, PhD qualified women with the guidance of a high-profile advisory group. The WILD Program tackles common barriers to career progression and sector retention faced by Australian women employed in the STEM sector, and provides women in STEM with the qualifications, skills, confidence and networks needed to attain senior leadership and board positions.
For more information about WILD, visit www.wildforstem.com