Advancing the Future: Gender Equity in STEM Workshop
Written by: Dr Jessica Bergman | Research Associate at Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador
I packed my warm jumper and braved the cold to join 50 other representatives from 15 different universities at the Women in STEM Collective Workshop in Adelaide this month. This two-day event, focused on clear actions and outcomes towards driving gender equity in STEM, was held across two gorgeous universities on Kaurna land.
The first day kicked off at the University of Adelaide with a rousing, singing, foot-stomping Welcome to Country by Ashum from Ngangki Warna. Dr Gemma Munro, our moderator, then set the tone for the workshop by laying out three simple rules:
- Lean into “discomfort and joy”
- Leave armours, egos, and university badges at the door
- Be responsible for the energy you bring into the room.
With those rules in place, presentations on the Diversity in STEM Review Initial Recommendations, taster pitches on initiatives to attract students to STEM fields, and a World Café brainstorming session from the newly-formed Diversity in STEM Collective became more like conversations between friends. The talks on the first day centred around the group as a community: who we are, what we do, and how we can work together. The questions asked often were – did you hear anything in these chats that you’re already doing and could contribute to? Do you know someone in your circles that could?
While the overarching theme of the first day was collaboration, an emerging topic was the importance of intersectionality. Looking beyond gender will take a team effort and involve being open to the experiences of others. The takeaway message was notice what is good, and replicate it.
Day two, held at the University of South Australia, was full of action time to think about what we want the next ten years to look like in this space. It was my turn to step onto the stage, presenting our research findings on Workforce Gender Equity Initiatives.
I then joined Dr. Debbie Devis, who spoke about the nodes and systems of gender inequity and how we can create positive reinforcement loops, and Dr. Kat Ross, the leader of the #IncludeHer campaign, for a Q&A session. We chatted about what we can do to be nodes of change in our own spheres of influence and how “thinking like a scientist” is a strength in developing, communicating, and evaluating initiatives to a diverse audience. We also spoke about the importance of standardising and sharing evaluations of programs, through tools such as our STEM Equity Evaluation Portal.
The workshop ended with a visioning activity: looking at our ideals for diversity in the future and then tracing back the steps it will take to get there. Like every activity in the workshop, this one benefitted from the shared strengths and experiences of all representatives present.
I left the workshop not only with a head full of ideas and a new network of peers to mull on these ideas with, but an appreciation for collaboration over competition. Gemma, paraphrasing Lin-Manuel Miranda, put it the best: “You can’t control the outcomes of the work that you do, but you can control the effort that you put in and the people that you bring into the room”.
If these are the people in the room where it happens, the future of gender equity in STEM is going to be full of real, tangible change.