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Cicada Innovations boss Sally-Ann Williams leads government review to improve STEM diversity

The federal government has asked an independent review panel to find ways to improve diversity and increase women’s participation in Australia’s science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors.

The Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review will be chaired by Sally-Ann Williams, CEO of Cicada Innovations.

Industry and Science Secretary Ed Husic said the panel will look at how to improve support for diversity in STEM in government programs.

“It is essential that Australians from all parts of the community have the opportunity to contribute to our ambitious science and technology agenda,” he said.

“The Pathway to Diversity in STEM review is about helping create equal opportunities for women and historically under-represented groups to pursue education and careers in STEM, supporting them to unlock their full potential and strengthening Australia’s STEM skills pipeline .”

Minister Husic said the expert panel has brought a wide range of experience to the task and will provide recommendations and guidance to improve diversity in STEM.

Williams on the panel includes Dr. Parwinder Kaur, a biotechnologist, science communicator and gender equality advocate who works to close the gender gap in technology; Mikaela Jade, a Cabrogal woman, passionate about storytelling, technology and knowledge sharing and including First Nations voices; and Acting Assistant Secretary Narelle Luchetti as an ex officio member, who will bring experience in Australian public service and public policy development, as well as implementation and process expertise to the assessment.

“STEM communities that are diverse, inclusive and collaborative are critical to meeting the challenges of the future and maximizing the nation’s potential,” said Husic.

“It also makes sense from a business point of view: studies have shown that companies with a diverse workforce perform better.”

Minister Husic also announced that the Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, has been reappointed for a further 12 months until November 2023, giving her the opportunity to conduct key research to support the review.

“Professor Harvey-Smith will be an important contributor to our next steps to improve diversity in STEM, which I know she is very passionate about,” said the minister.

“She has been an outstanding leader within the STEM industry and will continue to provide expert advice and advocate for change.

“In that way, she will continue to be a visible role model to encourage girls and women to pursue STEM education and jobs.”

The minister made these announcements today at the Elevate: Boosting women in STEM event, where 50 government-funded STEM scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate students were awarded to women in STEM areas.

Elevate promotes more women-led collaborations in applied research and business, enhances professional skills in STEM and pushes more women into leadership.

The terms of reference for the Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review are here: industry.gov.au/stem-diversity

Details on Elevate: Encouraging Women in STEM here: atse.org.au/career-pathways/elevate

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