Celebrating women in science, computing, engineering and maths

The ‘Women in SCEMS’ group are dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the sector

What do these women have in common? They’re La Trobe’s female staff and students in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (SCEMS).

The ‘Women in SCEMS’ group, established in late 2023, are dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the sector.

Professor Wenny Rahayu, Dean of the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at La Trobe, said a lot had changed since she began her career.

Traditionally, women were the minority in Australia’s Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce and often experienced poorer employment outcomes than their male counterparts. According to the latest figures from Australian Government’s STEM equity monitor, however, women’s and girls’ participation in STEM has improved.

The monitor shows that the number of women enrolling in university STEM courses increased by 31 per cent between 2015 and 2021. Out in the workforce, the number of women in STEM-qualified occupations increased by 68 per cent from 2012 to 2022.

Professor Rahayu said it was promising to see positive change for women in the sector.

“As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, I am always looking for ways we can help women feel more supported and, in turn, improve gender diversity in areas like science, mathematics and engineering,” Professor Rahayu said.

“We have a number of initiatives to help advance gender equity, diversity and inclusion at La Trobe. This is spearheaded by our SCEMS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which was established to develop and implement local level initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion.”

“Our staff and students take part in number of mentor programs, an initiative led by Associate Professor Leanne Ngo whose area of expertise is in cybersecurity. The programs include La Trobe Cybersecurity Society Women Leaders, the WiCys Global Women Mentoring Program, the Victorian ICT for Women Mentoring program, and the Australian Women Security Networking Mentoring program – to name just a few,” Professor Rahayu said.

“We’re also proud to participate in the WATTLE Leadership Program, which addresses the underrepresentation of women in senior levels of leadership and directly contributes to the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) program.”

Co-chaired by Renuka Eliezer, SCEMS Senior Manager, and Associate Professor Narelle Brack, Head of the Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the SCEMS Diversity and Inclusion Committee consists of 12 staff and HDR students, 10 of whom are women.

“We meet twice a year to actively drive and implement the delivery of School-wide actions to address diversity and incorporate recommendations from the Diversity and Inclusion Plan.”

“Late last year we held our first Women in SCEMS dinner, which was attended by twenty-four women from across the School. It was wonderful to all come together as a group for the first time to meet up and have a meal together,” Associate Professor Brack said.

Professor Rahayu says the dinner was a great way to celebrate some of the incredible women in SCEM at La Trobe.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to connect, share stories, and strengthen the bonds formed by our shared journey in the world of STEM.”

“While much has changed for women in the industry in recent years, there is still more we can do to attract and support women. We hope to continue to grow this group and hold more events in 2024.”