For the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD), female leaders across South East Queensland are celebrating the opportunities available to women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The 2023 IWD theme of ‘Cracking the Code’ highlights the role that bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education can play in combatting discrimination and the marginalisation of women globally.
Creating career pathways and inclusive workplaces for women
Unitywater CEO Anna Jackson said she was committed to creating career pathways and inclusive workplaces for women in STEM.
“We support the education and advancement of young women through the Unitywater Fiona Waterhouse Women in STEM Scholarship. It is for deserving female students studying in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),” she said.
“This scholarship honours one of our late Board members who was passionate about women in STEM.
“At Unitywater, there are many opportunities for a career in STEM and our female team members who pursue a career in these fields role model what is possible for the next generation.
Jackson said women represented 36 per cent of Unitywater’s workforce. A strong focus is on fostering an environment where women are encouraged to take up rewarding careers in STEs.
“Women working at Unitywater directly contribute to the liveability of our region and our core service of keeping communities healthy,” she said. “From the water quality scientists keeping your drinking water safe, the engineers planning future infrastructure for our region and the technology specialists thinking smarter and embracing innovation to deliver better customer outcomes. In addition, they act as role models for the STEM women of tomorrow.”
“I am investing in seeing that 36 per cent grow and grow to become properly reflective of the communities we serve.”
Diversity and inclusion critical for excellence in science and technology
Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart said it was important to encourage female participation in STEM education and careers.
“Noosa Council’s Peregian Digital Hub is playing a major role in this space and is continually developing workshops to fill the gender gap,” she said. “It’s important to value the knowledge of our young women. We need to create future learning and career pathways for them.”
“With the emergence of artificial intelligence, there will be some fascinating opportunities in science, technology and engineering,” said Stewart. “Noosa Council has just expanded the Digital Hub to embrace the growth in AI. It will radically shape how we work, learn and create and create jobs in the digital sector. This will further enhance Noosa’s reputation as a great location for technology innovation and talent.”
Supporting economic development
Sunshine Coast Council CEO Emma Thomas agreed, saying STEM careers in the region supported economic development.
“I think a STEM career can set people up for many great things,” she said. “I’m an engineer and the CEO of Sunshine Coast Council. It just shows how many opportunities there are for people with a STEM background.”
“We have an incredible pipeline of STEM education, opportunities and projects on the Sunshine Coast. That includes our University and the Innovation Centre, as well as a range of school programs. We are all working together to build the capability, bring in the businesses and build the infrastructure. That infrastructure includes projects such as the International Broadband Submarine Cable, the Sunshine Coast Airport and the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm.
“These attract and retain STEM talent in this region, adding and contributing to our economy.
“We are also broadening our ideas of diversity and inclusion here at Council, and we want people to be included no matter where they come from or how they identify.”
Transforming the future
Moreton Bay’s Deputy Mayor, Cr Jodie Shipway, said she wanted to see women playing a pivotal role in transforming the region’s economy and future.
“Throughout history, change has happened slowly for women. However, I believe the digital economy and this moment in history will be the great global equaliser,” she said.
“Research shows girls match boys in school. However, they don’t end up being the top performers in the industry due to continuing biases and stereotypes. We are strategically investing in education and empowering women to enter STEM careers.
“I’m thrilled to have UniSC within the Millovate precinct. It will become an innovation hub dedicated to advanced manufacturing, medical technologies, scientific research, and information technology.
“Empowering women to play a crucial role in our future economy will supercharge our path to prosperity.
“I dream that in years to come. We’ll see graduates from around Australia making Moreton Bay their first preference on uni applications. It’s because we’ve achieved such incredible outcomes here and weren’t afraid to do things a little differently.”
A collaborative approach
Ms Jackson said the Sunshine Coast, Noosa and Moreton Bay were a massive drawcard for those looking for opportunities in STEM careers.
“Our region provides an attractive place to work and live with an exciting future. A great place to be and a great career appeals to many,” she said.
“While we still have work to do in growing STEM professionals, I’m pleased to have more than 50 women in STEM roles at Unitywater. It demonstrates our need for these critical and exciting positions. We’re delighted to be raising the profile of women in these roles with our council partners.
“We need to keep talking to young women and girls about opportunities in these fields and let them know that it’s great to love maths or science and talents in these fields are celebrated.”
This feature first appeared in Inside Water.