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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 today for the program, run by Science & Technology Australia and funded by the Australian Government.
“Australia needs to draw on the full diversity of our talent pool to deliver the next huge science and technology breakthroughs and galvanise STEM gender equity to strengthen our skilled workforce,” Minister Husic said.
“Visible diverse role models in the media and in our schools send a powerful message to the next generations of diverse young Australians that there is a place for them in STEM.
“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.”
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 CEO Misha Schubert said the program tangibly helped diverse young Australians to see themselves in science and technology careers.
“It’s really hard to be what you can’t see,” she said. “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.”
“To fix the visibility challenges, we need to create even more diverse role models who are household names appearing regularly in the media as science experts and authorities.”
“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.”
The Superstars of STEM program has nurtured media stars such as health expert Dr Kudzai Kanhutu (now a regular on ABC’s The Drum), mask safety expert Dr Kate Cole (whose media work led to stronger safety checks on masks amid a pandemic), whale expert Dr Vanessa Pirotta (seen on a vast array of media) and Gamilaraay astrophysicist Karlie Noon (author of the new 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,” she added.
“Superstars of STEM has meant more women STEM experts on our airwaves and in the nightly news bulletins,” said Superstar of STEM Pearl Li Ng, a Digital Implementation Manager at engineering company Aurecon.
“The program gives participants the skills, knowledge and opportunities to become regular media commentators,” she added.
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.”
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.