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Moving beyond ‘women in science’ to ‘people in science’

This International Women’s Day the push is on to accelerate progress towards equality, so we no longer have to highlight women in science

Scientist Dr Phoebe Meagher is at the forefront of conservation forensics and the battle against the illegal wildlife trade. A Superstar of STEM and Future You Ambassador, Phoebe has had to work super hard (including handling bloody kangaroo carcasses for a job) to carve out her dream career as a wildlife conservation officer at Taronga Zoo Sydney.

Back in 2016, dubbed the Year of the Woman, Phoebe says she was in demand as the ‘woman scientist’. “And I was like ‘Oh, can’t I just be a scientist?’”

Almost a decade later, Phoebe says she’s lucky to work in an institution that really promotes women, but structural problems are still preventing women from moving into more senior roles in science.

“Someone famously said to be a successful woman in science, you need to have a very supportive partner or no partner at all,” Phoebe says.

“The societal issues around encouraging women in STEM are a much bigger problem… those big chunks of time with young children is one of the biggest obstacles. You can pretty much make anything work between school hours, and be super efficient, but when it comes to spending three weeks in the field it’s a challenge.

“Often it just comes down to the partners of the women stepping up and saying: ‘Sure, you go in the field for three weeks and I’ll look after the kids’. And the places that those partners work for allowing them to have more parental responsibility,” Phoebe says.

For now, Phoebe says, her advice to girls and women is to ride the women in STEM wave.

“Women in STEM and in science are riding this wave to try and get their voices heard,” Phoebe says. “We do just have to continue to be visible. We have to continue to be loud. We have to continue to back ourselves and be proud and say: ‘Look what I’ve done’.”

“Diversity is the key to progress and innovation. It takes people with different backgrounds and experiences to bring new perspectives to global problems like sustainable development. 

“Highlighting the achievements of women in science and sustainability can give girls confidence to share their insights and ultimately aspire to change the world with their ideas – not as women and girls in science, but as people in science.”

For more inspiration this International Women’s Day check out some of the hundreds of inspiring people in STEM we’ve profiled in the last decade.

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