From social justice leaders to health scientists, high achievers in aviation and tech entrepreneurs, Griffith University celebrates its bold and brilliant women this International Women’s Day.
This year’s theme from United Nations Women Australia, ‘Cracking the Code’, honours those accelerating gender equality through inclusive innovation, research discoveries and digital technologies.
Recipient of the Athena SWAN Bronze Institutional Award, Griffith’s Women in STEMM is committed to addressing inequalities in the fields of Science, Technology, Mathematics and Medicine, offering a number of opportunities and scholarships to promote women in those fields.
Professor Cindy Shannon, Griffith’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Indigenous, Diversity and Inclusion) said ensuring biases and inequalities are addressed in the digital age is high on Griffith’s conscience.
“If women are going to benefit from technological innovations, then their voices and ideas must be involved from the beginning of the process – from design through to development and implementation,” Professor Shannon said.
“If you’ve got a homogenous group giving input, you’re going to have a homogenous projection of values that disregards the lived experiences and voices of so many others.”
Australia’s first female Professor who is blind and the second blind person in Australia’s history to be appointed as a Faculty Dean, Professor Linda Agnew (Academic Dean at Griffith Health), said accessibility involves the inclusion of universal design principles in all technological development.
Professor Agnew insists that understanding the socioeconomic and cultural contexts that form barriers to women’s education and the workforce is essential for real progress.
“The creativity and perspective that a diverse population brings in addressing real-world issues is immeasurable”, she said.
“I believe women and girls on the ground in countries where they don’t have equal access to education are key to the development of innovations needed to address global issues such as climate change and food security.”
A biomedical major and strong advocate for women in STEMM, Professor Agnew said having solid support networks, lifelong mentors and being intentional about career opportunities is integral to disrupting the statistic that less than one third of STEMM researchers are women.
“My support networks, especially those who have assisted my access to technology and reasonable adjustments in the workplace enable me to excel in my career,” Professor Agnew said.
“Along our own journey, we can give back, be a mentor to someone else and seize opportunities to motivate and encourage girls and women into STEMM careers.”
Associate Professor Bronwyn Griffin, having achieved great success in pediatric nursing and research, feels a responsibility to nurture the next generation of nurse scientists.
Associate Professor Griffin’s contribution to children’s health research and efforts in ensuring an equal and rewarding future for girls has earned her a personal invite to the prestigious International Women’s Day event at Government House.
She believes everyone, including men, must play their part in platforming the voices of women in STEMM fields.
“As well as women, one of my greatest supporters was a male who was very happy to put me forward by saying, no – you’re the expert in this – you’re the person that should be talking on your research,” Associate Professor Griffin said.
“Let women stand in the spotlight where it’s been earned.”
Dr Michelle Ronksley-Pavia from Griffith’s Institute of Educational Research said that dismantling the systemic issues within professional spaces, and encouraging women to have confidence in their work, requires everyone’s participation.
Dr Ronksley-Pavia is part of an all-female editorial team behind ‘Academic Women’, which promotes the diverse lived experiences of women in various fields of academia, due for release on 9 March, 2023.
“It is a cross-section of women’s experiences – not just from a Western point of view, but also considering what’s happening in other countries,” she said.
“It’s important women feel confident that they have something to say, space to say it, and belief that it is important for somebody, somewhere to listen – that they may be able to resonate too.”
Achievements and initiatives from women within Griffith are being recognised on a broad scale.
Aviation student Lauren Jones was the recipient of the lauded 2022 Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Wings ‘Young Achiever of the Year’ award.
Whilst women make up just three per cent of pilots in the aviation industry, Lauren’s outstanding accomplishment, as well as increased female-student intake in Griffith’s aviation program for 2022, demonstrates change is in the air.
In the lab, Institute for Glycomics Associate Professor Manisha Pandey (pictured at top) helped to uncover secrets behind severe invasive infections associated with Strep A, whilst PhD candidate and Bidjara descendent Michelle Hobbs was awarded for her exceptional research in freshwater ecosystems.
In tech, Griffith’s MATE ‘bystander’ app was launched to support loved ones of victims of domestic violence, which disproportionately affects women, under the direction of Shaan Ross-Smith (Director, Griffith MATE program).
From the field, three of Griffith’s academics, Dr Caroline Riot, Associate Professor Clare Minahan, and Professor Stefanie Feih, were honored amongst Australia’s top 100 female sports innovators for their contributions to change-driving sports technology.
Professor Cindy Shannon and Professor Linda Agnew are joined by Microsoft’s data and AI specialist Katie Ford and United Nations University researcher Jamiee Stuart to discuss ‘Cracking the Code’ this International Women’s Day at Griffith University’s Logan campus.