International Women’s Day Continued

This year TMOS has decided to continue on the celebration of the women of our centre, from March 8th TMOS will highlight one of the women within our centre once a month. Discussing why IWD is important, what this year’s theme means to them and advice they would give to women and girls who are interested in STEM.

This month we celebrate Wendy Lee from the University of Melbourne.

Q1. What is your name, where do you work and how long have you been an academic in STEM?

A1. My name’s Wendy S. L. Lee, I currently work at the University of Melbourne (Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and School of Physics). 4 years and still going.

Q2. What does International Women’s’ Day mean to you? This year’s IWD theme is “Cracking the Code” are you excited for there to be such a STEM focus?

A2. It’s A Day to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women in society! Not saying that it should be the ‘ONLY’ day to do it. From a STEM academic point of view, it reminds me of the great women in academia who are ever willing to mentor and go out of their way to guide aspiring female academics such as myself. It gives me great hope that there are powerful women in academia that are willing to sponsor aspiring candidates like me.

To be completely honest, no. There are many STEM focused programs for women which revolve around similar proposed initiatives to address gender inequities in STEM such as, Women in STEM, Women in STEMM, Engineers Australia, Women in Tech, Women in AI and so on. For years there have been many programs addressing these issues, and there’s still much to be done to achieve gender equality.

“Cracking the code” would involve going beyond in addressing the barriers to achieve a gender equal future. Changing systems that are already in place that never considered women to begin with. For instance, not being able to reach the top shelf as set at a male height norm. Minor problem, for sure. A few years back, realising that crash test dummies do not account for women’s measurements. This crucial fact drastically increased the odds for women to be seriously injured in a frontal car crash. These little things can help shape a better, more inclusive future for everyone.

Q3. Over the last few years there has been a huge push to increase gender equity within STEM. What have been some of the positive changes you have noticed?

A3. I’ve noticed that senior female academics are more willing to support other junior female academics and groom them to climb the ladder of academia. This contrasts the academic gatekeepers, which is highly encouraging.

Q4. What advice would you give to women and girls who are interested in STEM?

A4. Reach out to your community and network with people who are in the careers you aspire to be in. Learn to recognise a great mentor from a gatekeeper. A mentor will support your aspirations and help unlock learning opportunities while a gatekeeper suppresses them. Often women and girls veer away from careers in STEM because of gender stereotypes or not knowing that the profession is about. TMOS Outreach can help there! Have a chat with the presenters during or after the workshops and understand what a career in STEM could be!

Q5. TMOS is dedicated to achieving greater gender equity, what are some of the ways you have witnessed this?

A5. I was very fortunate to be hired as part of the Women-only recruitment rounds from TMOS early on. This recruitment strategy is ideal for women who have just started a family or have career breaks as most of the research jobs claim to be ‘relevant to opportunity’, but are not quite so!

Q6. What is your research, and will it impact positively on equity in the future?

A6.I work on a project that aims to efficiently upconvert infrared radiation to visible light. To put simply, so that we will have enhanced vision. One day we’ll be able to wear TMOS night-vision goggles and see through walls, including camouflage. When will be that day? Before the end of the grant of course!

Thank you Wendy for all you do within TMOS! Check in next month to hear from another one of our brilliant women.