Recognition of our future women scientists and engineers

From left to right: Professor Helena Teede, Co-Director, Monash Institute of Medical Engineering; Sophie Armstrong, Women in STEM Student Leader Award recipient; Professor Christina Mitchell, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences; Dinasha Wimalasiri, Women in STEM Student Leader Award recipient; Professor Ann Nicholson, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology; and Professor Elizabeth Croft, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

A new initiative is inspiring women scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

The inaugural Women in STEM Student Leader Awards, led by Monash University’s Monash Institute of Medical Engineering, recognises young women students for their leadership and contribution to Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Mathematics fields.

Statistics show that female students participating in STEM education are significantly lower than males with women poorly represented in the STEM enrolments and workforce. In academia, women are underrepresented within academic and research staff positions and in positions of seniority. The figures show:

  • Women comprise of only 35 per cent of enrolments in university STEM courses. *
  • Only 13 per cent of STEM qualified executives are women. *

Monash University is working to change the numbers through its commitment to support and nurture the next generation of women and are proud to lead by example with females at the forefront of management positions within STEM fields across the University including the Deans of Engineering; Medicine, Nursing and Health Science; and Information Technology.

Co-Director of the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering, Professor Helena Teede said statistics like this underline the importance of supporting, encouraging and elevating women in science and engineering.

“Despite promising new data, gender inequality in the workforce is still very real, and nowhere is it more urgent than in STEM. We hope through these awards they inspire young women to continue to work towards a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Mathematics, and that they continue to support other women to do the same. This will work to improve the global gender disparity we currently see in STEM disciplines,” said Professor Teede.

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Elizabeth Croft, said we need to change the cultural perception that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers do not welcome women. The truth is that women have always been active leaders in these fields, but their stories and success has not been made visible to the public at large.

“These awards recognise and celebrate the young women who have chosen STEM careers, who are emerging leaders, and who are making a difference. We hope that they will inspire more young women and spread the message that they are very welcome in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” said Professor Croft.

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Professor Christina Mitchell said this is a moment to be celebrated.

"I’m proud to see Sophie and Dinasha leading the way for the next generation of healthcare innovators. Recognising, supporting and celebrating the careers of young women is critical to advancing our future STEM workforce – collaborations between medicine and engineering are delivering ground-breaking medical devices, platforms and tests that will change the way the world responds to global health challenges,” said Professor Mitchell.

Interim Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology, Professor Ann Nicholson said equal representation across the sector is essential.

“The Faculty of Information Technology is committed to championing equity, diversity and inclusion and advocating for underrepresented and disadvantaged groups in STEM. The Women in STEM Student Leader Awards, along with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, is an example of some of the initiatives in place to grow the representation of women in STEM subjects,” said Professor Nicholson.

Two winners were awarded this year, with both receiving a cash prize of $2,500 to put towards their studies.

“This field is about creating solutions for a diverse society. Therefore, we need a diverse team to ensure representative technologies. We should all have the opportunity to inspire change. This award is a step to help me on that journey and empower me to inspire others to join,” said Award recipient, Sophie Armstrong who recently completed a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Materials Science) and Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Monash University and has begun a PhD.

“Receiving this award has made me feel strong, supported and confident. Sometimes I experience self-doubt but this recognition highlights that I can do it, I am a leader,” said Award recipient Dinasha Wimalasiri who is completing a Bachelor of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering (Honours) and a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Monash University.

The Women in STEM Student Leader Awards applications for 2021 will open later in the year.


*https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/stem-equity-monitor/higher-education
*https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-07/australias_stem_workforce_-_final.pdf (p. 215)