For International Day of Women and Girls in Science (IDWGS) on Saturday 11 February 2023 an important discussion about the participation of women and girls in Australia’s science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) workforce and education, was broadcast live from Victoria’s Parliament House.

The 8th IDWGS aimed to promote equality in science, technology, and innovation for socio-economic sustainable development, in line with the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. IDWGS celebrates and promotes the participation, achievements, and contributions of women and girls in the field of STEMM. The IDWGS theme this year was: Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. I.D.E.A.: Bringing communities Forward for sustainable and equitable development.

The panel of accomplished women in STEMM was hosted by ABC science journalist and presenter Natasha Mitchell, and live-streamed via Facebook Live in Victoria’s Parliament House. Panellists included:

  • Professor Madhu Bhaskaran: Co-Chair, Women in STEMM Australia
  • Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea: Director, STEM Careers Strategy, Australian Academy for Technology & Engineering
  • Associate Professor Sophie Adams, Medical Director of Austin Health's Mental Health Division
  • Dr Isabelle Kingsley, Research Associate, Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador

The panel discussed cultural and structural barriers to participation and leadership by women in Australia’s STEMM workforce and touched on ways in which we’re seeking to balance an historical disparity for a brighter future.

As Dr Isabelle Kingsley stated, “scientists are problem solvers”. All agreed that scientists are inherently curious and creative people.

The discussion also highlighted the critical role that teachers play. A clear message from across the room was that “we need to support teachers, to support STEMM” and that experiencing science in an interactive and fun way in the classroom is important for teachers and students alike.

When asked by Dr Gillian Sparkes AM, Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria, “what is your elevator pitch, the one thing you would ask to be done to encourage and retain more females in STEMM?”, the panel responded insightfully with ideas including: “we need to put the spotlight on STEMM for all ages, create more experiences of awe, encourage more informal STEMM education and provide more support to our STEMM teachers”.

Dr Sparkes explained that, “Diversity in STEMM is critical for sustainable and equitable development. Expanding the pool of STEMM students, professionals, leaders, researchers, educators - and bringing fresh perspectives to problem solving, benefits us all”.

The discussion captured the essence of the theme for this International Day of Women and Girls in STEMM – ‘collaboration to bring communities forward for sustainable and equitable development.’ Let’s keep the conversations and actions, flowing.

The event partners are grateful to the panellists, organisers and audiences (in person and online) for contributing to a successful discussion. Event partners include The Royal Society of Victoria, Parliament of Victoria, the Victorian Parliamentarians for STEM and the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability.

Listen to the proceedings broadcast on Facebook Live by Parliament of Victoria.

To learn more about IDWGS: