Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith is the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador and a Professor of Practice at the University of New South Wales. First appointed in 2018, Harvey-Smith is responsible for mobilising Australia’s business leaders, educators and policymakers to increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) studies and careers.

The Ambassador drives initiatives to grow Australia’s skilled workforce by removing structural barriers to participation. She advises the Australian government, industry bodies and businesses on policies, investments, program design and evaluation. She leads a team conducting research programs, creating tools and resources, and delivering training to advance educational and workplace reform.

Efforts to increase participation in STEM are making a difference. Data from the 2022 STEM Equity Monitor revealed that from 2018 to 2021, the number of women in STEM-qualified occupations increased by 34% and the number of men increased by about 6%. Between 2018 and 2020, the number of women enrolled in university STEM courses increased from 77,673 to 87,371. This was a 12% increase, alongside a 5% increase for men. Data for other genders were not available.

Although there has been a marked increase in the number of women enrolling in university STEM courses, women’s participation in vocational STEM education increased by only 1% between 2018 and 2021. Efforts to retain women in STEM occupations also need attention. A five-year study of STEM graduates from the year 2011 found that by 2016, only 1 in 10 STEM-qualified women worked in a STEM industry, compared with more than 1 in 5 STEM-qualified men. The data reveal there is significant work to be done in these areas.

Professor Harvey-Smith is an award-winning astrophysicist who has published more than 50 research papers on the birth and death of stars, radio galaxies, cosmic magnetic fields, gravitational waves and supermassive black holes. She worked for two decades as a science and operations leader for world-leading astronomical telescopes including the Square Kilometre Array – a continent-spanning next-generation radio telescope that will survey billions of years of cosmic history. She serves on the Australian Space Agency’s Advisory Group and the Questacon Advisory Board. Harvey-Smith contributes to government and industry roundtables and represents Australia in international fora.

She has served on numerous advisory committees including the Elevate – Boosting Women in STEM Advisory Group, the Engineering for Australia Taskforce, the Women in STEM Decadal Plan Expert Working Group, and the Science Advisory Group to the Australia-NZ SKA Coordination Committee and Chaired the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Grant Committee. She is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the Astronomical Society of Australia, and Chief Executive Women.

Professor Harvey-Smith was a presenter on the popular ABC Television show Stargazing Live and is a regular science commentator on TV and radio. In 2016 she was awarded the Eureka Prize for Promoting the Understanding of Australian Science Research and was a recipient of the CSIRO Chairman’s Medal for her contributions to the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder Telescope. 

Professor Harvey-Smith has written five popular science books, including award-winning titles: Aliens and Other Worlds, Little Book, BIG Universe, When Galaxies Collide, Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime, and The Secret Life of Stars. She has performed in theatres across Australia, including her self-penned When Galaxies Collide tour in 2018 and live tours with Apollo moon walking astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke and Gene Cernan.

Learn more about our research

We lead two research projects to examine gender equity in grant programs in the Australian research sector.

What works to improve equity in STEM

We have developed tools to guide evaluation efforts across STEM equity initiatives in Australia.