Inspiring Stories: Women In Science Symposium

Young Scientist

Young Scientist. Image credit: Maja Baska 2014

It all started with a discussion with my environmental scientist daughter about the numbers of girls opting out of science and scientific careers because of negative stereotypes. We had been talking about some of the scientists I have met and worked with here at the museum and their incredible experiences.

She said it was such a shame that, by not considering science as an option, girls were locking themselves out of some amazing careers. She also found it disappointing that those stories aren’t common knowledge, or available to students making decisions about their future.

From that small conversation an idea began to germinate. I ran it past a couple of my colleagues, who thought it had potential. I did more research, contacted some possible speakers, had another conversation with my daughter – who urged me to do this (or else!) – and since then my idea of a Women in Science Symposium has taken on a life of its own.

Veena Sahajwalla

Veena Sahajwalla. Image credit: Tamara Dean

My final link for the day came from a newsletter on how to guide students from school to university life and employment opportunities. It featured an inspiring conversation with Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla of the University of New South Wales and the Science 50:50 program. Professor Sahajwalla agreed to come and chair the day, to bring many of her industry partners, and to have the Sydney launch of Science 50:50 as part of the symposium.

The symposium will take place on Friday 6 March, International Women’s Day, at the museum and also virtually by video conferencing.

The 11.30 am panel, chaired by Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla, features four scientists with a distinct maritime feel: Micheline Jenner from the Centre for Whale Research, Western Australia; Dr Katy Croff, Bell Expedition Leader, Vice President and Chief Scientist, Ocean Exploration Trust, USA (via video link); and Dr Katherine Dafforn and Dr Inke Falkner, both from Sydney Institute of Marine Science. The panellists will discuss their work and different experiences as well as inviting questions from students.

After the first panel presentation, students who come to the museum will be offered a behind-the-scenes tour of our conservation lab with conservator Rebecca Dallwitz.

The 1.30 pm session will feature the launch of Science 50:50, a program that aims to inspire young women to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology so they can succeed in an innovation-driven future. Science 50:50 makes the simple point – half the population is female, so why not half the scientists and technologists? By informing and engaging young women with the power of science and technology to solve complex problems and transform lives, and by introducing them to Australian scientists and innovators who are doing just that, Science 50:50 can help recalibrate the gender balance.

This session, again chaired Professor Sahajwalla, will feature a keynote speaker, as well as panellists from Science 50:50 industry partners such as CSIRO, IBM, Cochlear, Woolworths, Arrium, Brickworks, Australian Museum Research Institute, and Global Product Stewardship Council. Students will have the opportunity to learn about scientific careers beyond university, internships and competitions. A panellist meet-and-greet will be held at the conclusion of the session for those students attending in person.

I believe that the day will be in the spirit of International Women’s Day, with the aim to inspire the next generation of scientists – who also happen to be girls – to do amazing things.

For more information and bookings:

Bookings are essential and can be made on our website. You can also email bookings@anmm.gov.au or phone 02 9298 3655.

Virtual bookings can be made on the Dart connections site:

Inspiring Stories Women and Science Symposium 50:50 project – 6 March 2015 Stream 1 – 11:30h

Inspiring Stories Women and Science Symposium 50:50 project – 6 March 2015 Stream 1 – 13:30h

Head to UNSW’s website for more information about the Science 50:50 project.

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