The WISE campaign: Women in STEM at Murdoch University

Murdoch University held their WISE Women in STEM event earlier this year. Year 9 Perth Modern School student and attendee Kamilla Pal shares her thoughts on the experience.

When you were younger, did you ever dream of being a famous surgeon or a world-renowned engineer? Yet when you got older and were exposed to social pressure you felt that those jobs weren’t for girls, and focused more on other career paths?

Well our day at Murdoch University, with the WISE Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research and education has taught us about the importance of widening our perspectives.

It was inspiring, listening to all these women who not only succeeded but dominated their area of STEM; varying from being a sustainable fashion designer or science journalist to head film animator at Pixar.

All the speakers were women in STEM, who were passionate about studying and have worked incredibly hard to defy the stereotypes; encouraging girls in STEM to do the same. Dr Paola Magni (Forensic Biologist), Professor Cassandra Berry (Immunology) and Professor Parisa Arabzadeh Bahri (Professor of Engineering, School of Engineering and Information Technology) were three women who spoke and participated in the Q&A panel during the event.

The conference gave us valuable insight into the many pathways available through STEM education and the countless ways it can be integrated with seemingly disconnected vocations. Professor Berry stated; “I think STEM is everywhere, we just need to open our eyes and see it.”

This is exactly what people, especially young girls in STEM, need to realise; STEM is the future and EVERYONE needs to be part of the future not just 50% of the population. Seventy-five percent of jobs will now require STEM; if only men are involved in those careers then we will be severely limiting our opportunities.

Dr Magni emphasised an important aspect of the damaging stereotypes surrounding women in STEM when she said, “Girls can be girls, and they can be a scientist at the same time. They don’t have to be scared to be a combination of both those things.”

Kamilla and friends with the WISE Women in STEM

Stereotypes show STEM careers as masculine jobs, with the expectation that any woman who works in that area will behave in a masculine way. In this stereotyped role model, showing femininity is considered a weakness and they are viewed as less competent or qualified. This issue plays a huge role in discouraging girls in STEM to pursue those careers, and it is essential we overcome this outdated thinking.

Following the presentations all the girls had an opportunity to participate workshops on the different areas of STEM. I was given a chance to join a fascinating, hour-long session on physics with many engaging activities such as using slinkies to demonstrate wave lengths. One of the highlights of the day was the interactive stalls surrounding the courtyard during lunch. I tried out everything from identifying X-ray and MRI scans to the liquid nitrogen train that is most definitely the new, up-and-coming mode of transportation.

This riveting experience has broadened our views and knowledge of the abundance of opportunities in STEM we hadn’t considered before. If you are interested in STEM or just want to further develop your understanding, be sure to attend the next WISE Women showcase in November, or look out for a similar event near you.

Kamilla Pal

Kamilla is a year 9 student at Perth Modern School.

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