Brisbane-based environmental scientist Holly Roberts-Simmonds and her colleagues ran a successful Girls in Science program with Year 4 and Year 9 female students at Somerville House in March 2019. Its success led to the development of a mentoring initiative targeting a new, but critical audience, female engineering students at university.

The program aimed to engage school age girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sectors before they learn a perceived gender bias in career paths. “Following the success of the program, we had been thinking about ways the professional female engineers and scientists at SMEC could inspire young women to choose careers in STEM. We expanded the Girls in Science program to a State High School in Queensland, and it was very well received. There was an overall 18 per cent increase in students who were more likely to pursue a career in science or engineering,” Roberts-Simmonds said.

“Just as we engage school aged children who have not yet chosen their careers, it’s equally important to support females who have already chosen to study engineering,” Graduate Engineer Water Infrastructure Amy Smith explained. “This helps to ensure they continue and complete their degrees and enter the industry after graduation.” Smith and her colleagues partnered with Griffith University to pilot a mentoring program for from May to November 2019 for seven undergraduate and postgraduate female students. After the success of the pilot and positive feedback from participants, the SMEC team says they are planning to run the mentoring program again in 2020 and hope to expand the program to more universities in the future. “It can be daunting to transition from university to the corporate world, and if we can make that transition a little easier for the next generation of female STEM superstars, then it was a success,” Smith said.

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