Passionate about women in STEM? For some, it’s a full-time job

Women in STEM ambassador
The Women in STEM Ambassador is an Australian Government initiative to address gender inequities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

We hit up the talented team behind the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador – who spend 9 to 5 addressing gender inequities in science, tech, engineering and maths fields

Women represent half of the population, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at your average STEM office. In technology fields for example, just 28 per cent of IT workers in Australia and 23 per cent in New Zealand are female, which is crazy considering that by 2023 there’s predicted to be 3.5 million job openings in cyber security alone.

Luckily, thanks to the work of initiatives like the Women in STEM Ambassador program – companies are hiring increasing numbers of diverse STEM grads, and the opportunities for growth are huge! 

So, what does the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassadors do? 

Led by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador influences Australia’s business leaders, educators and policymakers to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM. Their vision? To make STEM a place for literally, everyone! 

Teaming up with stakeholders to attract, retain and progress young girls in STEM is all in a days work for the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador team – and just like any awesome initiative, behind all the awesome resources, advocacy, research, social events and media appearances is a team of passionate, hardworking experts from a range of different STEM and non-STEM related backgrounds.

Here, we look at how they spend their work days. 

Professor Lisa Williams, Chief Investigator of the Women in STEM Ambassador grant

Dr Lisa A. Williams
After initially planning on being an environmental lawyer, Lisa found her way to psychology during her undergraduate studies.

“I’m an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at UNSW. I’m also Associate Dean, Equity Diversity and Inclusion in the Faculty of Science and am a Chief Investigator on the grants that fund the Women in STEM Ambassador initiative.

“I’m a social psychologist! In my research, I explore how the emotions that people experience impact their behaviour, with a focus on positive emotions such as pride and gratitude. I also have the opportunity to teach undergraduates, mostly about social psychology and emotions, and supervise research students.

“My typical day involves a bit of all of my various roles. I usually have some meetings – with other members of the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador, with students, or with other colleagues. When I’m not in meetings, I engage in teaching, or work on writing a research paper, or analyse data. It’s always a mixed bag, and so always interesting!”

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australian Government Women in STEM Ambassador

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith
Lisa is a career astrophysicist and studied a Masters degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics followed by a PhD in Radio. Astronomy.

“I landed this exciting role in 2018. The Australian government wanted someone to coordinate the many programs in Australia that aim to  create gender equity in STEM and to drive positive cultural and social change. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to effect change.

“Throughout the day I’ll usually have video calls with members of my team to plan projects. I’ll speak with colleagues in government, businesses and equity organisations who have similar goals. I might take part in a live (online) event and speak to audiences across the country (or even overseas) about our work. Sometimes I visit schools virtually, which is great fun! I do a lot of media interviews too – for radio, tv or newspapers – and often appear as a guest on podcasts to talk about my work. I might read articles on gender equity in STEM and prepare advice to the Australian government about how they can further support our goals. In the evening I might chill out in front of the TV, or write a few paragraphs for my next book. “

Clara Gomes, Digital Content and Research Officer

Clara Gomes
Clara has a bachelor of International Relations, a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies and a post graduate degree in not-for profit and social enterprise management.

“I take care of all the communications that come out of the Office, in partnership with a media agency. When we’re announcing a new project, campaign etc., I ensure our key messages and the tone of the communications are just right. I find the evidence behind what we say and sometimes I write opinion pieces and media pitches.

“Every day is different. Apart from our team meetings Mondays, which are on Teams, no one week is the same. But, roughly, I have some time dedicated to answer emails, write content for our social media platforms, write media releases, plan communications activities for announcements and new projects, and monitor performance of our digital communications through analytics. “

Jaqui Pyke, Senior Administrative Officer

“My role has two parts, I am the team administrator and I am also Prof Lisa Harvey-Smith’s EA. As an EA, I organise Lisa’s calendar, respond to request for her time, provide her with briefs for meetings, and other general admin tasks. As the team administrator, I support everyone in the team with general admin (for example, ordering items/paying invoices), but I also organise and lead strategic planning sessions, team meetings, support new staff, and prepare reports for stakeholders such as the government.

Jaqui Pyke
Jaqui studied a Bachelor of Primary Education (Hons), and later completed a Masters in Management.

“I am an administrator, so I do spend a lot of time at my computer (even more so during the pandemic, where meetings are held online). In a typical day, I will send and answer emails for a variety of reasons (to organise/book events or meetings, to seek or provide information, or to connect other people). I am responsible for preparing and running meetings (including sending invitations, writing agendas and meeting briefings, and liaising with other EAs). I also manage budgets and ensure invoices are paid and tracked, and I usually spend some time updating reports that are due at regular intervals throughout the year.”

Isabelle Kingsley, Research Associate

“My job is all about finding out what works to improve gender equity. I create evaluation resources to help people and organisations measure the success of their programs and interventions. I lead research projects that look at what kinds of workplace interventions achieve certain gender equity goals. For example, in one of my projects, I am investigating whether anonymising applications to access to research equipment, like telescopes ad supercomputers, will lead to more women applying for, and being awarded, these resources. I sometimes look at trends over many years to see if patterns coincide with different interventions. Basically, I interrogate data to find out what works, and what works best, to improve gender equity in the workplace.

According to Isabella, the coolest thing about her job is that it effects change—it makes a tangible difference.

“My days are rarely the same. Sure, there are the emails and meetings like many other jobs. When I work on my research, I use coding language to wrangle and analyse data and look for trends and patterns or use statistics to help me answer research questions. Sometimes, I observe people and situations and take notes on the things they do and say to include in my research data. I read about other people’s studies and use the evidence from their findings to inform my own research. I write about my studies in academic journal articles, reports, blogs and social media. Some days, I give talks, or present webinars or speak to the media about my work. I travel to conferences and events. I provide advice to people and organisations around the country who want to improve gender equity. There is a lot of variety in my work. “

Check out the work that the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador do here. 


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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