In conversation - Women in Victoria: STEM to the world

6 March

On Friday, 6 March 2020, veski partnered with Global Victoria and the Office for Women to deliver a workshop entitled In conversation - Women in Victoria: STEM to the world – an invigorating discussion with local and international delegates as part of the inaugural all-women Global Victoria Women’s Business Summit. 

Victorian STEM Women and members of the veski connected community joined 14 international delegates from 7 countries to share experiences on what is working, the gaps and actions to advance STEM women and business to break the barriers.

veski MD & chief executive, Julia Page set the scene with an introduction to veski and the proactive steps they have taken over the past 15 years to support women within STEM industries. In 2010, veski initiated the development and delivery of a series of professional development & networking forums and in 2015, with the financial backing of the Office of the Lead Scientist, Victorian Government, launched the veski inspiring women program encompassing the veski inspiring women fellowships, veski inspiring women industry internships and the veski inspiring women’s portal.

In late 2017, veski along with Chris Holtby OBE, British Consulate General Melbourne, Dr Rowan Brookes, The University of Melbourne and Polly Holtby designed and launched the veski inspiring women STEM sidebyside program – an initiative to support women in STEM take the next step in their careers, which was delivered in 2018 and 2019.

Chris Holtby OBE, facilitated the morning’s panel discussion on what Victoria is doing well. Chris began by sharing his experience as a founding member of the veski inspiring women STEM sidebyside program – the impact of the various streams of the program, feedback and comments from the 2018 and 2019 participants as well as the difficulties faced in delivering the program for a cohort of women looking to return to work in 2019.

Chris was joined by panellist, Dr Natalie Hannan, who shared her experience as a recipient of the inaugural veski inspiring women fellowship - allowing her to be a primary carer of her young family whilst excelling in her research career. She also highlighted the importance programs like the veski inspiring women STEM sidebyside program have had on her career, helping her build courage and confidence to voice her own opinions, with the support of her partner in creating the opportunities to recognize her professional potential.

Kisa Christensen from BAE Systems Australia then shared her experience working in a male-dominated industry – focusing on the significance of male champions and diversity in the work-place. She also added to the conversation that we must - it being our duty to - call out bad behaviour.

The final panellist, Sophie Krantz from Open ExO shared her personal and professional journey and focused on the need for women to step up and the need for a different type of leadership – “what does the world look like when you’ve left your mark?”.

Following the panel session, Dr Amanda Caples, Victorian Lead Scientist introduced and invited Hon Denise W Merrill, Secretary of the State of Connecticut, USA; who shared her journey and the initiatives she has led in her state to support women in STEM and business.

 Jo Richardson and Amy Davis from the Office for Women then shared the Gender Equality Act 2020, enacted on 25 February, explaining how the Act aims to improve workplace gender equality across the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils.

After which, the international and domestic participants came together for some informal networking over morning tea - where they were able to unpack the morning’s discussion and share their personal experiences from their own communities.

Following morning tea, Julia facilitated a tabletop discussion where participants divided into groups comprising leaders in STEM from Victoria and overseas to discuss, in the context of Women in STEM:

  • - What is working in your community and country?
  • - Where are the gaps?
  • - What are you inspired to take action on?

This created an opportunity for Victorians and international delegates to learn and gain insight from each other, on the similarities and differences on barriers and opportunities available for women in STEM industries. 


Each participant was asked to note down an action they were inspired to take away, following the workshop, to further support and promote other women in STEM industries. Individual groups were asked to discuss and decide upon one thing they were inspired to do as a group - all groups then shared their vision with the following actions collated:

  • - To share what we know and help women to step forward, particularly those in disadvantaged communities around the world
  • - To step up towards leading courageously
  • - To continue to find ways to share stories of women in STEM
  • - To not create labels and lump different types of people into the same group (ie. Pale male, white male etc) – true male champions are increasing
  • - To take action - if we want to see change in the world
  • - To look out more for women who have possibly been in, or are in, situations that we’ve been in before
  • - To mentor people through such situations with what we have learned so that they don’t face the same struggles.




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