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International Women’s Day

UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day theme for 2023 is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’.

Based on the priority theme for the United Nations 67th Commission on the Status of Women – Cracking the Code highlights the role that bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education can play in combatting discrimination and the marginalisation of women globally.

Innovation is a driver of change and by embracing new technologies and championing the unique skills and knowledge of women in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM), we can accelerate our progress towards a gender equal future.

While innovation has the power to transform lives, we know that there are still many barriers to equality. Access to inclusive digital technologies and education is critical. We must innovate to close the digital divide that keeps so many women offline and away from new opportunities.

By ensuring equal access to education for women and girls and creating clear pathways and inclusive workplaces for women in STEM, we can leverage the transformative power of inclusive innovation, so critical to cracking the code to gender equality.

This years’ theme aligns closely with our centres ethos and is great opportunity for us to celebrate and uplift the women who work in our centre. This year we decided to showcase the women in our centre not only on IWD but throughout the rest of the year. As with many social issues we focus on them once a year and then tend to forget about it the rest of the year.

Our Director Dragomir Neshev would like to take this opportunity to thank all the women in our centre for their amazing work and dedication. Dragomir has championed women within our centre since it began in 2021 and is dedicated to seeing our centre achieve greater gender equality in the years to come.

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.

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

My name is Krishna Muraleedharan Nair. I am a research fellow at RMIT University, and I have been an academic in STEM for the past 7.5 years, including my PhD period.

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?

IWD gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the great women in our society. I still remember when Kalpana Chawla first travelled on a space shuttle, and I was really amazed by the fact that a woman can accomplish something the whole nation can be proud of. IWD reminds me of my capabilities to achieve my dreams and thus inspire the future generation.

Cracking the Code is a great initiative, focussing on the importance of accessible education for all. This encourages the young girl to plan and dream of her future and thus make her independent. The focus on breaking the current societal norms will benefit women a lot. Recently, I have seen a lot of companies offering extended parental leave for men. Men taking up the role of primary carer of the child for this period helps women to keep a balance between career and childcare. Would like to see more such initiatives to bring a positive change to the age-old stigma of pregnancy career break for women.

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?

I have seen an increase in the number of women early career researchers over the past few years. This has also resulted in a rise in the number of women leaders in STEM. Job opportunities dedicated to women candidates have motivated many candidates to apply and pursue a career in STEM.

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

The one who limits your capability is you. Believe in yourself and always follow your dreams, nothing can stop you from fulfilling those. STEM is becoming a women-friendly field, and one can be assured of the numerous opportunities available.  Like every human being, women also need support from their families. So, my main request is for their families to let them move forward and pursue their passion. If we go out and explore, there are lots of opportunities that will help us fly high.

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

TMOS has promoted women employment by conducting women-only recruitment. This kind of recruitment strategy not only gives confidence to women who had career breaks due to circumstances but also motivates women who are already in STEM by creating a belief of self-esteem and trust and assurance of a good work-life balance. I was also selected as part of one such recruitment process.

The carer benefits provided by TMOS to attend workshops/conferences give team members an opportunity to extend their professional network, participate in knowledge sharing and a lot more, without worrying about their carer duties.

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

My work is focused on optimising material deposition and fabrication of Metasurfaces for optics and photonics applications. The device fabrication sector is predominantly a male-dominated sector, but as part of my research, I am trying to be part of this area and hoping to inspire more women to this field of research.