CSIRO has joined forces with a number of other leading universities and organisations to ensure the talents of women are better represented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) education and careers.

[Music plays and an image appears of a female in a laboratory holding up a specimen in a jar and then text appears: If science lost or gained unique talents, then what?]

 

[Image changes to show two workers in a laboratory working and text appears: Uniquely talented people can turn towards Science Technology Engineering Maths Medicine or away]

 

Narrator: Here are people who have given their talents to STEMM and who represent a minority in their areas. 

 

[Images move through of a female working in a laboratory, Professor Frances Shannon working at a computer, Professor Nalini Joshi looking at a book and Associate Professor John Rolley working on a computer]

 

We asked them about their inspiration and contributions, the obstacles that may have led them to leaving STEMM and how these were overcome. 

 

[Images move through of Professor Tanya Monro working, and two females looking at a computer and text appears: Inspiration, when I decided to give my talents to STEMM]

 

As you listen, consider the consequences of diverse talent gained or lost from STEMM.

 

[Images move through of a computer screen and Professor Emily Banks talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Emily Banks, Epidemiologist and Public Health Physician, Australian National University]

 

Professor Emily Banks: I think probably when I really decided I wanted to be a Researcher was when I was at Medical School and I spent a lot of time the first few years of Medical School asking a lot of questions and then I saw a lecture from someone who was an Epidemiologist and I realised that was really in some ways the theory of mind for Medicine.  It was really what defined what worked and what didn’t and I thought “Uh huh, that’s exactly what I want to do”.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Ottoline Leyser talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Ottoline Leyser, DBE, University of Cambridge]

 

Professor Ottoline Leyser: The thing that I get most excited about is trying to understand very broadly how things work.  Always, that’s a question.  You know you see something interesting, how does that work?  And I think how living things work is particularly extraordinary and I’ve always found that an attractive and exciting thing to think about.  So, I… it was never really a difficult thing for me.  I just kind of followed my nose into science.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Tanya Monro talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Tanya Monro, Physicist & DVC Research & Innovation, University of South Australia]

 

Professor Tanya Monro: It was when I had this extraordinary Physics Teacher and I suddenly could see how Physics was really the language that allowed us to connect all the concepts that underpin our universe together and that in a way you didn’t need to remember lots of complicated facts but you could figure one thing out from another with the aid of Maths using the concepts of Physics.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Nalini Joshi talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Nalini Joshi, Mathematician, University of Sydney]

 

Professor Nalini Joshi: Really Mathematics is where my passion was because it allowed me to explore where truth was, where the answers to these questions about the universe might be in a very deep way and so that’s why I decided to pursue a career in Mathematics.

 

[Images move through of Professor Shannon working on a computer and a close-up side view of Professor Shannon and text appears: When I might have turned away from STEMM…]

 

[Image changes to show Professor Shannon talking to the camera and text appears: Professor Frances Shannon, DVC & Vice-President, Research & Innovation, University of Canberra]

 

Professor Frances Shannon: Well, the time that I did seriously consider leaving science was when I had a family.  I had young children.  I have three children who are now all in their twenties but when they were very young it was really, really difficult to keep up a science career and a family and at that stage I did consider other options.  The biggest obstacle I think was being able to keep up the level of productivity that you needed in order to be competitive in the Grant system in order to keep your science and your activity going while at the same time spending time with your young children. 

 

[Image changes to show Professor Emily Banks talking to the camera]

 

Professor Emily Banks: Probably the biggest obstacle was later in my career when I was in a leadership position and I was having huge difficulties with some of the people that I was working for and I really felt that my leadership wasn’t valued.  I felt that I was actually being discriminated against because I was a woman and I really considered at that point whether I wanted to keep on going.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Tanya Monro talking to the camera]

 

Professor Tanya Monro: As I neared the end of my undergraduate years, having had a lot of fun doing my first really big research project in my Honours year, I thought I may well continue in that topic area in Photonics for my PhD but I wanted to keep it open.  So, I went around looking for some other prospective PhD projects at other universities in areas I thought were interesting and it took a bit of courage to do that rather than stay with what I knew. 

 

I looked up a Professor who was doing some really intriguing work at another University and made an appointment to go and see him to see whether or not he might be interested in taking me on as a PhD student.  I turned up with my CV and my Publication List and my grades and he said to me in a very kind and gentle manner that he was glad that I was interested but he didn’t think I was the calibre of student he was looking for.  And it wasn’t until the conversation had ended and I was out there quite shaken up that I realised he actually hadn’t looked at my grades and I’d had High Distinctions in all my Physics and Maths subjects which should have prepared me quite well for the PhD that he could have given me.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Nalini Joshi talking to the camera]

 

Professor Nalini Joshi: I went to my first international conference and gave a poster and as I stood next to my poster during the time that they allocate to it, a famous Professor from a US University came along and pulled up a trestle to put right next to me and posted up his most recent paper on it and he stood there and as people came by he would yell out very loudly “Come and look at my poster, don’t look at hers.  Mine is much better than hers”. 

 

[Image changes to show Professor Nalini Joshi writing on a blackboard and the camera zooms in on her hand and then the image changes to show Professor Nalini Joshi talking to the camera]

 

That was an example of a very visible and extreme level of competition that happens in science and it’s actually there constantly even if it’s not as visible as that particular incident was.

 

[Image changes to show Associate Professor John Rolley talking to the camera and text appears: Associate Professor John Rolley, Clinical science, heart disease, nursing and implementation science, University of Canberra]

 

Associate Professor John Rolley: When I made that decision, or thought I’d made that decision to leave it was actually quite devastating.  I felt that dreams were being taken away from me and it was actually quite a depressing moment in my academic career.

 

[Images move through of Dr Anna El Tahchy working and text appears: Victory, overcoming obstacles]

 

[Image changes to show Dr Anna El Tahchy talking to the camera and text appears: Dr Anna El Tahchy, Biochemist, CSIRO Agriculture and Food]

 

Dr Anna El Tahchy: So, I’ve chose to stay to fight for my position as a Scientist because that’s what will make me happy and that’s what I want to wake up every day and keep on doing.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Emily Banks talking to the camera]

 

Professor Emily Banks: Well, the first thing I did was really to, to reconnect myself with why I was a Scientist and why I did it and that was really first and foremost about answering really big questions and about data.  So, I actually kind of withdrew myself from the sort of conflicts that can often happen with politics and those kinds of things and really focussed on why I was doing it and focussed on answering those questions. 

 

So, that was the main thing.  I also surrounded myself with people who are incredibly talented.  I’ve got an absolutely brilliant team and I also found that through networks and through my Organisation and through other Organisations there was actually a lot of support.  I also actually did get professional help as well which was incredibly helpful. 

 

[Image changes to show Associate Professor John Rolley talking to the camera]

 

Associate Professor John Rolley: I think the really key thing for me was having a mentor. Not everyone has that and so I was very fortunate in having that mentor.  That person actually has served me very well over the course of my career and she went on to become a Supervisor for my PhD as well.  And largely it’s her capacity to be able communicate what’s critical in scientific method and particularly around statistics that help me really understand what the issues were and help to break it down so I could solve the problem myself.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Frances Shannon talking to the camera]

 

Professor Frances Shannon:  A key aspect of overcoming that obstacle was to have a supportive boss and also to have a supportive husband.  In my case both of those were really important.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Tanya Monro talking to the camera]

 

Professor Tanya Monro:  In any job there are things that give you enormous energy and there are things that are very draining and I’ve learnt to be very conscious of what that balance is for me. 

 

[Image changes to show Professor Nalini Joshi talking to the camera]

 

Professor Nalini Joshi:  What I do is I check the evidence.  Just like when I’m doing Science or Mathematics.  So, in that example of the poster session where there was a famous Professor standing next to me the first, the natural question that came out of that was you know “Is my work good enough?  If he’s saying it’s not good enough and his is better, is mine good enough?”.  And so I had to think that through and the evidence was that a famous Professor is trying to compete with me, a little measly Graduate student, so therefore my work must have been good enough. 

 

So, I had to develop these ways of thinking to work out whether I should keep going and it’s actually a very good habit of mine to develop to be able to check the evidence and bring it out in order to show that your work is actually better than it’s been judged to be.

 

 

[Image changes to show scientists in a laboratory and text appears: Contribution to science (STEMM)]

 

[Image changes to show Dr Anna El Tahchy talking to the camera]

 

Dr Anna El Tahchy: I’m mostly proud of my PhD research which allowed me to discover a molecule which is a secondary metabolite intense.  It’s called Galantamine and it’s used now as a drug to slow down Alzheimer’s disease from progressing in patients.  That was a great impact because it used to be synthesized chemically and it used to be expensive.  Now it can be extracted from the plants and it’s more accessible for the patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Emily Banks talking to the camera]

 

Professor Emily Banks:  I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done on hormonal therapy for the menopause, in identifying its links with breast cancer.  I’m also really, really proud of the work that we’ve done with WHO, looking at the relationship of female genital mutilation to obstetric outcome and providing the primary evidence that drives advocacy in that area, as well as being really important foundational information for the UN Resolution against female genital mutilation.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Ottoline Leyser talking to the camera]

 

Professor Ottoline Leyser:  You know plants are extraordinary.  They’re more or less building themselves out of thin air and I would very much like to understand how that works, how they manage to do that and I… yeah the work we’ve done in my Group over the years has certainly contributed to that but I’m so kind of captivated, I suppose, by the extraordinary things that plants do I don’t really think of it as “I’m proud of myself for trying to understand that”.  I think it more as it’s just amazing what plants do and I’m very excited to be able to spend my life trying to work on that. 

 

[Image changes to show Professor Frances Shannon talking to the camera]

 

Professor Frances Shannon:  I’m proud of several things in my field.  One, the contribution I made to understanding how genes respond to signals in the immune system.  The second thing that I’m proud of is the number of people who came through my Lab and I trained in science, either as PhDs or Post Docs and were able to then contribute as they developed their careers and the third thing is leadership in science.  I think it’s very important for women to have a leadership role in science so that then they create an example for other people coming through.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Nalini Joshi talking to the camera]

 

Professor Nalini Joshi:  So, what I’m most proudest of is that I ask questions that nobody else seems to have even thought of asking and that I am capable of answering them.

 

[Image appears of Dr Anna El Tahchy holding up a specimen in a jar and text appears: My wish for the future of STEMM]

 

[Image changes to show Dr Anna El Tahchy talking to the camera]

 

Dr Anna El Tahchy: I wish in the future we have more funding to do more research. To be able to discover more talents for science.  There are more people that are interested in science but they might be lost because of the lack of funding. 

 

[Image changes to show Associate Professor John Rolley talking to the camera]

 

Associate Professor John Rolley:  The number of men in Nursing still is restricted to between 9% and 10%.  I think it’s finally breaking past that 10% but we still struggle to try and get the message across that nursing is for everyone, not just a single gender.

 

[Image changes to show Professor Ottoline Leyser talking to the camera]

 

Professor Ottoline Leyser:  Science absolutely requires diversity. The whole point is you’re trying to come up with new ideas, new ways of thinking about things and that works much better if you have many different sorts of people contributing from many different backgrounds with many different skill sets and so creating research environments where diversity is welcomed that is truly inclusive and truly focussed on the science I think is really key to the success of the whole scientific enterprise. 

 

[Image changes to show Professor Tanya Monro talking to the camera]

 

Professor Tanya Monro:  My one wish for the future is that your ability to do science and engage in whether it’s research or application of science has nothing to do with your personality attributes and your background.

 

[Music plays and images move through of people walking around in a laboratory and text appears: Consider the consequences, what if we gained or lost]

 

[Text appears: What can you do today so that unique talents can flourish in STEMM]

 

[Image changes to show two females working in a computer science laboratory and text appears: CONNECT and get to know a budding scientist who is different to you]

 

[Image changes to show a female talking to a group of students and text appears: MENTOR a budding scientist who is not like you]

 

[Image changes to show a female scientist at work and text appears: ENGAGE in Australia’s historic SAGE pilot]

 

[Image changes to show a male and female walking down a corridor towards the camera and text appears: CONTRIBUTE to unblocking barriers]

 

[Image changes to show two females talking together and looking at a wall chart and text appears: ASSIST diverse scientists in giving their talents to STEMM]

 

[Image changes to show a male and female scientist looking down and text appears: SPONSOR and fund diverse scientists and science]

 

[Image changes to show a male and female looking at scientific apparatus and text appears: SHARE your achievements with others]

 

[Sponsors logos and text appears: This film is a collaborative project of the SAGE ACT Regional Network, CSIRO CSU UC ANU, Thanks for watching]

 

[Credits appear: Featuring Dr Anna EI Tahchy Early Career Research Scientist, Biochemist, CSIRO Agriculture & Food, Professor Emily Banks, Epidemiologist and Public Health Physician, Australian National University, Professor Frances Shannon, DVC and Vice-President of Research & Innovation, Biomedical scientist, University of Canberra, Associate Professor John Rolley, Faculty of Health, Clinical science, University of Canberra, Professor Nalini Joshi, Mathematician, University of Sydney, Professor Ottoline Leyser, Director – Sainsbury Laboratory, Plant developmental geneticist, University of Cambridge, Professor Tanya Monro, DVC Research & Innovation, Photonics Physicist, University of South Australia, Videographers, Jamie Kidston, Australian National University, Emlyn Crockett, University of Sydney, Sasa Sefer, University of South Australia, Howard France, Cambridge/Avito, Editing, Jack Fox, Australian National University, Colleen MacMillan, CSIRO, Tim Wess, Charles Sturt University, Lucy McPherson, Australian National University, Jade Redfern, University of Canberra, Jamie Kidston, Australian National University, Concept, design, development, storyboarding, resourcing, and production, Cate Thomas, Charles Sturt University, Colleen MacMillan, CSIRO, Crystal Ladiges, CSIRO, Denise Wood, Charles Sturt University, Hedy Bryant, Charles Sturt University, Jade Fitzgerald, Charles Sturt University, Jade Redfern, University of Canberra, Jamie Kidston, Australian National University, Jessica Hyles, CSIRO, John Carlin, CSIRO, John Manners, CSIRO, Kerry Elliot, CSIRO, Lucy McPherson, Australian National University, Megan Osmond CSIRO, Nick Kachel, CSIRO, Renae Ryan, University of Sydney, Richard Baker, Australian National University, Shubra Roy, University of Canberra, Tim Wess, Charles Sturt University, Vivienne Reiner, University of Sydney]

 

 

STEMM's got talent, but nearly lost it. Here's what happened.

Over eight months, CSIRO and its partners contributed energy, ideas, and action to ensure STEMM-related fields benefit from diverse minds, diverse knowledge and skill-sets, and diverse human networks to respond quickly, intelligently and in impactful ways.

This project resulted in the cross-institutional video 'STEMM's got talent, but nearly lost it', which captures the stories of successful individuals who have pursued careers in science; how at times, they nearly turned away from STEMM, and how a range of obstacles were overcome along the way.

It also explores their institutions’ role in unlocking and harnessing the potential of the human mind, regardless of gender.

The participating institutions are the CSIRO, University of Canberra (UC), The Australian National University (ANU), University of South Australia (UniSA), University of Sydney, and Cambridge.

Our leaders are committed to this effort: CSIRO Deputy Chief Executive Craig Roy: "It takes billions of grains of sand to make a beach but it only takes a small number of inspirational stories to change the world – 'STEMMS's got talent, but nearly lost it' shows us that it is possible to change the future of science and humanity. We need all the talent we can harness – let's do it, grain by grain, story by story, step by step."

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deep Saini: "The University of Canberra has long been committed to developing and fostering an environment that promotes gender equality. Through this culture, we have seen first-hand the positive impact a diverse workforce has on our capacity to facilitate transformative learning and research, particularly in STEMM. It's important that we continue to unlock and harness the potential of the human mind for the benefit of our community and beyond, and gender should not stand in the way of this. Not now, not ever."

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC: "For ANU, the SAGE initiative is a program that will help the University both think about the problems around gender equity, and then find ways to fix those problems. We are delighted to be working with other research institutions in our region to break down barriers and inspire more women to have rewarding careers in STEMM."

Charles Sturt University Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann: "Equality of opportunity is a core part of our organisational DNA at Charles Sturt University - we think of ourselves as fundamentally an access university. STEMM has particular issues and we have been very pleased to work with the SAGE program to address gender equity issues in these disciplines - we cannot afford to discard so much talent if we are to solve our issues as a nation and as a planet."

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence: "We stand firm in our commitment to advancing gender equity, promoting women in leadership and furthering women’s education. Through the SAGE and other University initiatives, we are fostering the careers of outstanding women in STEMM and seeking to remove the obstacles that prevent women from achieving their full potential. By working together with our partners across higher education, we can continue to drive change and open the way for more women to succeed in Australian science and technology."

The film features physicist Professor Tanya Monro (University of South Australia), early-career researcher and biochemist Dr Anna El-Tahchy (CSIRO Agriculture and Food), mathematician Professor Nalini Joshi (University of Sydney), Dr John Rolley researcher in nursing and clinical medicine (University of Canberra), Professor Emily Banks epidemiologist and public health physician (ANU), Professor Frances Shannon epigenetics and immunology scientist (University of Canberra), and Dame Ottoline Leyser, Plant developmental biologist and Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory (Cambridge).

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