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Australian manufacturing is transforming, but one metric proves that Australia is not taking full advantage of the industry’s potential – that is its low female participation.

According to research conducted by Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), one of the key factors contributing to low participation of females in Science, Technology, Maths and Engineering (STEM) is a lack of representation of female leads in STEM and understand all the exciting opportunities manufacturing has to offer.

These findings are echoed in a federal government body of research and policy publication titled: Advancing Women in STEM strategy, championed by Engineer and Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrew.

“I am passionate about seeing more women taking on STEM careers and working in manufacturing. Increasing women’s participation in STEM is not only important for women – it is vital for strengthening our economy and creating the jobs we need for the future,” Minister Andrews said.

Managing Director for AMGC, Dr Jens Goennemann said: “With the theme of International Women’s Day being ‘Choose to Challenge’, AMGC would like to celebrate a number of leading women who challenge the myth that a career choice in manufacturing, or any STEM-related discipline, isn’t for women. Australian manufacturing is the engine room of advancement, underpinning our moves from a lucky country to a smart country and women must play a bigger role."

Dr Kymberly Talbot, Managing Director of Gold Coast based lithium-ion battery developer FELINE, said: “[Students should] understand that STEM disciplines are tools that teach you about many things, not just the technical stuff, but also how to analyse a situation - a way of thinking if you like.

“The adaptability of STEM is significant in these days of changing career opportunities and challenges. These tools are transportable to most aspects of your life, like career changes, travel, banking, and shopping – yes shopping requires analysis when costs are high. I have a black belt in shopping."

Further research conducted as part of AMGC’s 10 Ways to succeed in Australian manufacturing report, involved focus groups of over 1000 students across the nation in which students were presented with information about what today’s manufacturing looks like. The information provided to all participants resulted in a 47 per cent net increase in interest as a manufacturing career.

Women in particular said that having a better understanding of the industry’s opportunities and seeing themselves included in communications about manufacturing had a strong impact on their ‘mental availability’ to choosing manufacturing as a career path.

This is a point reinforced by Dr Heba Khamis, CEO of Contactile a cutting-edge Sydney based biomedical company specialising in bestowing robots with the sense of touch and human-like dexterity.

“Women remain underrepresented across all STEM studies and careers – but that shouldn’t discourage you," Khamis said. “A career in STEM is an opportunity to be on the cutting edge and work with the latest technology, these careers are the fastest-growing in the world, with high demand, high pay and a high level of job satisfaction.”

While AMGC data suggests that a lack of visible female STEM leaders impacts consideration of the career path for students, these leaders' inspiration to enter a STEM career came from a variety of sources and in some instances gave them a distinct advantage.

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