Monday, 15 February 2021
Statements by Members
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
Last Thursday was International Day of 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. Of all science researchers, less than 30 per cent are women. In Australia it's welcome that half of all PhD science 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 the University of Western Australia 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, of 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 worthwhile life's work. I'm sure that's true.
The underrepresentation 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 interests of fairness and the interests of science itself.