A nationwide search has begun for Australia’s next constellation of Superstars of STEM – a game-changing initiative to advance gender equity by turning more diverse science experts into media stars. Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic will launch the national talent search for the program, run by Science & Technology Australia and funded by the Australian Gov’t.
How have Superstars of STEM improved gender equity?
Open to women and non-binary STEM professionals, the program has created 150 Superstars of STEM since 2017. Another 60 more Superstars will be chosen this round. Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the program tangibly helped diverse young Australians to see themselves in science and tech careers.
“It’s really hard to be what you can’t see. Women are around half the Australian population – and yet are seriously under-represented in STEM careers and leadership, and, at last count, only one in three experts talking about science in the media were women,” Schubert said.
“We need to create even more diverse role models who are household names appearing regularly in the media as science experts. The program is transforming and challenging ideas about what a scientist looks like, turbo-charging gender equity in science, and giving more young Australians inspiring role models to encourage them into STEM studies and careers.”
“Australia needs to draw on the diversity of our talent pool to deliver the next huge science and tech breakthroughs and galvanise STEM gender equity to strengthen our workforce. Diverse role models in media and schools send a powerful message to the next generations of diverse young Aussies that there is a place for them in STEM,” Minister Husic said.
“Our Government is committed to supporting programs that equip Australian smarts with the skills to confidently communicate their research and be recognised for their work,” Husic said.
Who are the brightest stars from the initiative to date?
The Superstars of STEM program has nurtured media stars like health expert Dr Kudzai Kanhutu (a regular on ABC’s The Drum), mask safety expert Dr Kate Cole (whose media work led to safety checks on masks), whale expert Dr Vanessa Pirotta (seen on a vast array of media) and Gamilaraay astrophysicist Karlie Noon (author of the book Sky Country).
“Visible role models matter,” said Superstar of STEM Dr Cayt Rowe, a STEM research leader with Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) in the Department of Defence.
“In its first few years, the Superstars of STEM program has started to powerfully boost the visibility of Australian women in science. It’s shown how building a media profile can turbo-charge careers, helping to secure leadership roles,” Dr Cayt Rowe further commented.
Commenting on the impact of STEM, Superstar of STEM Pearl Li Ng, a Digital Implementation Manager at engineering company Aurecon said, “Superstars of STEM has meant more women STEM experts on our airwaves and in the nightly news bulletins. The program gives participants the skills, knowledge and opportunities to become regular media commentators.”
Superstar of STEM and CSIRO conservation team leader Dr Rebecca Jordan said the program had given her opportunities to inspire more Australian young people into exciting careers in the sciences. “It’s been such an incredible experience to be able to do school visits, open young people’s eyes to the joys of studying science, and inspire them into future careers as scientists. I can’t wait to see some of them as future Superstars of STEM,” said Jordan.
The next 60 Superstars of STEM will participate in the program for two years, starting in January 2023. Applications are open now and close on Sunday 14 August.