Women & girls in science

Published on Mon 15 February 2021 2:05pm

The under-representation of women and girls in science is both an inequity and a missed opportunity. We must keep working to remove the stereotypes and structures that have created this imbalance, in the interest of fairness, and in the interest of science itself.

Mr Wilson (4:30pm) – Deputy Speaker, last Thursday was the International Day for Women and Girls in Science. When we consider the range of scientific challenges before us – from pandemics to climate and energy, from plastic waste to biodiversity conservation – we must recognise that our efforts are weaker than they could be simply because the participation of women is skewed low rather than being equal.

Efforts have been made to encourage and support women and girls in science, yet globally only 30 per cent choose science-related fields, and of all science researchers, less than 30 per cent are women.

In Australia it is welcome that half of all science PhD graduates today are women – but at the same time women make-up only 17 per cent of senior academics in our research institutes and universities.

Last Thursday I met with Natalie Elliott who studied science at UWA and now applies her skills and expertise in managing park services on Rottnest Island.

For Natalie the lightbulb moment was a story her mum told her about the ‘rediscovery’ of Gilbert’s Potoroo in Albany in the mid-1990s. The Potoroo was thought to have been extinct.  It remains Australia’s most endangered marsupial. That reality, and the challenge and prospect of making a difference led Natalie to study science – a decision that she says has carried her towards a worthwhile life’s work. I’m sure that’s true.

Deputy Speaker, the under-representation of women and girls in science is both an inequity and a missed opportunity. We must keep working to remove the stereotypes and structures that have created this imbalance, in the interest of fairness, and in the interest of science itself.

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