There has been a slight uptick in the proportion of female engineers in Australia, now at an estimated 16 per cent.
But with projections for another 100,000 engineers needed by 2030, it’s clear much more needs to be done to address this massive gender imbalance.
Dr Morley Muse is one such engineer, and much more. And she is currently addressing the lack of diversity in STEM head-on, through a wide range of initiatives, including tech, advocacy, and even careers fairs.
In 2022, Dr Muse was named the Emerging Leader of the year in STEM, at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards in recognition of her efforts to transform an industry.
In the year since, she highlights some of the further, incredible work she has done — including launching a new platform for eliminating bias in recruitment and hosting a careers fair promoting opportunities for women in STEM.
We asked Dr Muse to share more on the year since she won the award, including some of her best advice to those aspiring to break through and her chief concerns around representation in STEM and entrepreneurship in Australia.
What’s been happening since you won the Emerging Leader in STEM award in September last year?
I am absolutely thrilled to share some exciting updates on my journey since receiving the award.
We’ve launched the DEIR platform, a game-changer in eliminating recruitment bias using specific elements like anonymous recruitment, job benchmarking, and ethical job and interview guidelines.
It’s incredible to see companies like Arup, Westpac, Telstra, and Worley already embracing this platform to recruit diverse talents. Best part? It’s currently free for both women and employers, using our trial packages.
Another proud accomplishment was the 2023 Women in STEM Careers Fair hosted by iSTEM Co. It’s now in its second year.
Last year, we created 20 new employment opportunities for women in STEM, and this year, with over 250 attendees, we’ve already sparked 50 new opportunities. It’s not just about mentorship alone; it’s about real opportunities for women to thrive and be retained in STEM.
I’m also excited to share my involvement in groundbreaking initiatives like the RISE Expert Panel with Diversity Council Australia, the Executive Committee of Science Technology Australia, and the Energy Reference Group with Jemena Energy.
These roles allow me to contribute my leadership expertise across STEM, Energy, and Women Leadership, breaking down systematic barriers and providing pathways to leadership positions.
The RISE project aims to break down systematic barriers and provide pathways to leadership positions for CARM women.
Joining the RISE Expert Panel is highly prolific for me as it enables me to contribute more broadly to empowering CARM women into senior leadership, which in effect will promote retention within their organisations and reduce attrition.
I have also been appointed to the Executive Committee of Science Technology Australia and the Energy Reference Group with Jemena Energy.
I am also glad to be a mentor for STA’s superstars of STEM program, an opportunity to elevate the work of senior and executive women in STEM.
On accepting the award, you noted that you entered into workplace environments and you don’t see women who look like you, other female engineers. Has this still been the case over the past 12 months?
Well, obviously that is changing with the initiatives we have launched at iSTEM Co., as well as other initiatives like STEM sisters, DCA CARM program, etc and the awareness we are generating in the STEM community, but we still have a long way to go.
The current statistics for women engineers in Australia have grown from 11.2 per cent in 2022 to 16 per cent in 2022 according to Engineers Australia. So, there is some progress but the key issues are employment and retention, which we should focus more on.
To solve the under-representation of women in STEM, we need to tackle 4 fundamental areas: Education, Employment, Retention/Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Most of the initiatives have since focused on education, which is great.
However, if we encourage young girls to study STEM and yet they can’t see their role models with STEM qualifications working in STEM, then there is a big problem.
Currently, only 15 per cent of women with STEM skills are in STEM-qualified jobs. The others have either left STEM post-qualification or working elsewhere. This shows that we have a big retention issue which must be tackled with a sense of urgency.
What are you most concerned about now in 2023, regarding challenges facing women (or others) in your industry?
In 2023, my main concerns revolve around the lack of retention of women with STEM skills in the industry and insufficient funding for startups.
Only 3 per cent of women startups received funding from the $10 billion VC funds in Australia in 2021, despite having a startup ecosystem where 22 per cent of founders across all firms identify as women according to LaunchVic.
We can do better. We’re open to collaborative opportunities for our upcoming program to help women in STEM turn their ideas into startups.
Best piece of advice you’ve learned when it comes to leadership?
When it comes to leadership, the best advice I’ve embraced is to be visible and use your privilege to advocate for positive change. Remember, there are no real failures—only opportunities to learn, grow and improve.
Any quick tips for those who might be hesitating about putting their hand up for an opportunity – whether it’s for a promotion or something else?
And for those hesitating to seize opportunities, my quick tip is simple: Don’t be afraid of what might go wrong. Embrace the possibilities of Yes, No, or Maybe. If it’s a Yes, fantastic!
If it’s a No, move forward without hesitation. If it’s a Maybe, invest more effort; it could very well turn into a Yes. The journey is all about learning, growing, and making a positive impact.
So, here’s to breaking barriers, creating opportunities, and building a future where everyone, regardless of gender or background, can thrive in STEM!
Dr Muse’s iSTEM Co. is currently set to engage in a STEM commercialisation program to enable women to commercialise their research into startups and is taking expressions of interest. She encourages interested individuals to reach out to her directly for further information on how they can get involved.
The winners of the 2023 Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards will be announced on Friday the 12th October.