Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, an astrophysicist based at the CSIRO, has been named Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador.
The role was announced by the government in the Federal Budget this past May, part of a wider $4.5 million package aimed at boosting the number of, and support for, girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).
As Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Harvey-Smith will be tasked with leading the government’s efforts to encourage girls and women to study and work in STEM fields.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews said she looks forward to working closely with Professor Harvey-Smith.
“As Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Harvey-Smith will advocate for girls and women in STEM education and careers, raising awareness and driving cultural and social change for gender equity,” she said.
“If we can increase participation in STEM by girls and women, we will strengthen Australia’s research, scientific and business capability. The Women in STEM Ambassador role will complement existing work and activities that are driving greater gender equity in science, both Government and sector-led.”
Professor Harvey-Smith currently leads a group of 30 scientists at the Telescope National Facility. She has published more than 40 papers on topics such as the birth and death of stars, cosmic magnetic fields, and supermassive black holes.
Winning the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research in 2016, Professor Harvey-Smith has effectively been working as an ambassador for science for years; she has appeared on a variety of radio and TV programs, including as cohost of Stargazing Live, recently published a book, and is this month launching a speaking tour.
As part of the government’s wider women in STEM package, the Australian Academy of Science is working to develop a ‘Decadal Plan for Women in STEM’ to “help coordinate the government’s efforts” to increase the participation of women in STEM.
In developing this plan, the Academy of Science is running a series of consultations around the country.
The consultation events were announced last month in hand with the release of a discussion paper raising questions outlining issues that the plan will seek to address.
Along with questions around what changes need to occur to enable more girls and women to participate in STEM education and what existing initiatives are making the most impact, the discussion paper is also asking respondents to consider what societal and regulatory issues will have the greatest impact on women in STEM, and how those barriers can be addressed.
It also poses the question of how the plan can address the backlash and resistance to change that will come as it looks to make progress towards gender equity in STEM.