International Women’s Day continued 3

UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day theme for 2023 is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’.

Based on the priority theme for the United Nations 67th Commission on the Status of Women – Cracking the Code highlights the role that bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education can play in combatting discrimination and the marginalisation of women globally.

Innovation is a driver of change and by embracing new technologies and championing the unique skills and knowledge of women in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM), we can accelerate our progress towards a gender equal future.

While innovation has the power to transform lives, we know that there are still many barriers to equality. Access to inclusive digital technologies and education is critical. We must innovate to close the digital divide that keeps so many women offline and away from new opportunities.

By ensuring equal access to education for women and girls and creating clear pathways and inclusive workplaces for women in STEM, we can leverage the transformative power of inclusive innovation, so critical to cracking the code to gender equality.

This years’ theme aligns closes with our centres ethos and is great opportunity for us to celebrate and uplift the women who work in our centre. This year we decided to showcase the women in our centre not only on IWD but throughout the rest of the year. As with many social issues we focus on them once a year and then tend to forget about it the rest of the year.

Just go for it! You should pursue what you’re interested in, and don’t let anyone hold you back. Don’t think of STEM as a “difficult” field.

From March 8th TMOS will highlight one of the women within our centre once a month. Discussing why IWD is important, what this year’s theme means to them and advice they would give to women and girls who are interested in STEM.

Q1. What is your name, where do you work and how long have you been an academic in STEM?

My name is Madeline Hennessey and I am undertaking my PhD at the University of Technology Sydney in the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I am not yet an academic, but I’ve been studying STEM for 5 years!

Q2. What does International Women’s’ Day mean to you? This year’s IWD theme is “Cracking the Code” are you excited for there to be such a STEM focus?

To me, International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on and recognise the achievements of women around the world. I am excited for a STEM focus this year, as history has shown this field to be typically male dominated. Celebrating the women behind the big names in science is inspiring and I look forward to seeing the next discoveries to come!

Q3. Over the last few years there has been a huge push to increase gender equity within STEM. What have been some of the positive changes you have noticed?

Being in STEM for not very long, I haven’t been exposed to much of a difference. About one-third of my undergrad classes were run by women, and despite the classes being quite imbalanced, I never felt I was at a disadvantage. It is also exciting to see young girls interested and engaged in science at our school outreach workshops, more so than when I was at school. I have noticed the high number of female-only STEM scholarships and workshops offered to restore gender equity, but there is still a long way to go.

Q4. What advice would you give to women and girls who are interested in STEM?

Just go for it! You should pursue what you’re interested in, and don’t let anyone hold you back. Don’t think of STEM as a “difficult” field, there are a multitude of support options available and most people are willing to help you succeed. It can be such a fulfilling field with so many skills to learn!

Q5. TMOS is dedicated to achieving greater gender equity, what are some of the ways you have witnessed this?

I have seen TMOS put forward several efforts towards achieving gender equity. To begin with, TMOS is already made up of 36% women, which is quite high compared to other research groups. They sometimes offer female-only hiring rounds, and ensure fair hiring is achieved in normal rounds. TMOS also runs training modules and seminars around inclusivity, ensuring all members are educated. I personally have always felt welcome amongst the centre and have never felt underrepresented at TMOS events.

Q6. What is your research, and will it impact positively on equity in the future?

I am focused on creating spin-active light sources from atomically thin sheets of hexagonal boron nitride. It has potential for applications in sensing devices and quantum computing, with higher sensitivity and more secure data delivery. Other than the possibility of creating jobs, I don’t believe it will have a noticeable impact on equity in the future.

About the author/s

Madeline Hennessey

Madeline Hennessey is a current PhD student at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), under the supervision of Prof. Milos Toth and Prof. Igor Aharanovich. She completed her Bachelor of Science (Honours), majoring in Nanotechnology at UTS in 2022, developing an interest in nanofabrication proce ... more