She-roes in science: Discussing female leadership this International Day of Women and Girls in Science

10 Feb. 2023

It’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, an annual day to promote the stride towards equal access to and participation of females in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. This year, we’ve been thinking about the importance of mentorships in allowing women to see aspirational roles represented by their gender, early in their careers.

One such relationship is that of Aly Ross the wildlife ecologist and AWC Intern Alice Si, who’ve worked together day and night throughout Alice’s internship at Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary.

Alice And Aly During Mutze Survey At Bucka AWC
Alice And Aly During Mutze Survey At Bucka

Over the past six months, they have been busy with a variety of tasks, including surveying camera traps, tracking the breeding health of reintroduced species, testing termite populations, and more. Alice’s favourite part of the experience was their trip to Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre in Central Australia, where Aly accompanied her on her first chopper ride, and in her first sightings of mulgaras, hopping mice, brolgas, and the eruptive Long-haired rat. Together, they hid from sideways desert winds, shared in campfire stories, surveyed the area, and formed a strong friendship.

Alice's First Helicopter Ride Alice Si/AWC

While AWC is proud to have facilitated healthy female relationships for women in STEM, we recognise that there’s still a long way to go in achieving full and equal access and participation of women and other diverse minorities in these fields.

Aly is a strong advocate for the #IncludeHer movement and is currently researching the representation of female scientists in STEM curriculums. She believes we need greater representation of women in leadership roles to normalize women’s contributions to STEM and make these careers more visible for young girls. Additionally, with over 80% of women in fields like physics and engineering reporting a lack of female role models as a significant hurdle for gender equity in their field, and causes of poor attraction and retention of girls and women in STEM compounding as progression to more senior careers is made, Aly insists that we need greater representation of women in senior roles to normalize women’s place in and contributions to STEM. She highlights the contributions of her own mentor and Yookamurra’s regional ecologist, Helen, to her knowledge, training and success. Alice adds that more specialist training is needed to help women break through the specific barriers to senior level positions.

We are thrilled that Alice had the chance to learn from another woman excelling in the career path she wants to take, and we intend to facilitate more learning opportunities like this on an ongoing basis, both through our internship program and visits to & from local schools.

“I’ve learned so much from Aly; obviously she has so much experience,” Alice says. “It was great learning the day to day of running the science program at a sanctuary like Yookamurra, and she’s even helped me through the writing and submission of my first scientific publication!”

Alice and Aly processing a Boodie Rebecca Wellard/AWC
Alice and Aly processing a Boodie

We thank Aly for being a great role model and wish Alice the best of luck with her paper and career. Here’s to women in STEM attaining the success they deserve with continually greater ease, empowered and supported by their peers and employers.

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