Leading figures; Career advice from women in STEM
Three maths-minded women share their insights on entrepreneurship and careers in finance, fintech, commerce and beyond.
Dr Carla Harris (right) was leading the data and research team at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency when she had a lightbulb moment. Most people, especially women, don’t save enough money for retirement. But what if there were a tool that made it easier?
“I started thinking about how we could help people stick money into their superannuation without realising they’re doing it,” Carla says. She came up with the idea for the Longevity app — every time a user spends money, a micropayment is tallied and deposited into their super fund as a lump sum each month.
“Imagine doing that for 40 years — you can really build your super fund,” she says.
Using her background in statistics and data analysis she was able to create an app to encourage financial empowerment.
Monica Wulff had a similar insight that led to her business, Startup Muster. She was working on surveys of Australian businesses at the Australian Bureau of Statistics when she realised that the government agency wasn’t getting much helpful data about early-stage businesses. This is where her statistics and data analysis skills came in.
“Without knowing what these start-ups are doing, their needs and what industries they’re in, you really have no understanding of the size and the potential of this community,” she says. “This kind of data is essential to the economic future of the country.”
For both women, a background in statistics and data analysis led to launching start-ups in the fintech and business sectors. But the world of finance revolves around numbers, so maths skills of all kinds are a definite advantage.
Sue Xue studied a Bachelor of Commerce at UNSW. She’s worked as a management accountant for the Hilton chain of hotels and is now a financial analyst for Wrigley, the maker of Starburst, Skittles and Extra chewing gum. (The smell of gum often wafts across her desk from the factory area.)
“My role is to analyse the numbers in the profit and loss statement and find explanations for any changes,” Sue says. “It’s only basic maths, but the interpretation and reasoning behind it are really important.”
Financial, statistics and data analysis skills are in high demand, and with new technologies, such as blockchain, shaking up the industry, candidates with strong coding and encryption skills can look forward to interesting careers in fintech. The systems used to process payments are always evolving, and technological changes in the banking sector mean lots of opportunities for those with IT skills.
– Chloe Walker