To mark International Women’s Day, The University of Western Australia is celebrating inspiring female staff, students, researchers and graduates who are making a difference and leading positive change.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said that UWA was committed to supporting gender diversity and celebrating the contributions of women.
“UWA’s female staff and students seek solutions to problems of great importance, delivering research that enriches the world. Each one contributes her unique ideas and perspectives,” Professor Chakma said.“They also help inspire those who follow them.”
“UWA’s female staff and students seek solutions to problems of great importance, delivering research that enriches the world. Each one contributes her unique ideas and perspectives.”UWA Vice-Chancellor, Professor Amit Chakma
Those who have shared their experiences and drive to make a difference in their fields include Dr Josephine Muir, CEO of a gut health company; Allison Ng, a 16-year-old first-year physics student passionate about making advancements in STEM; Associate Professor Alex Luksyte, a champion for workplace equality; PhD student and marine biologist Charlotte Birkmanis; and law graduate Belinda Teh, who has tackled voluntary assisted dying laws.
Dr Josephine Muir, researcher from the School of Biomedical Sciences, Marshall Centre for Infectious Diseases Research and Training
Dr Muir is a UWA adjunct research fellow and CEO of spinout health tech company Noisy Guts, which is developing non-invasive diagnostic tools and products for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome – a condition affecting up to one in five Australians.
Dr Josephine Muir is the CEO of Noisy Guts, a UWA spinout company.
The Noisy Guts program has won multiple awards and has the potential to vastly improve patient care in the future and save significant health costs by contributing to early diagnosis of gut disorders.
Dr Muir said her career had taken her on a remarkable journey and an unlikely turn, from an arts major to political speech writing and into medical technology.
“I did a BA, Honours and Masters in Public Policy and followed my heart to Canberra to study politics,” she said. “While I didn’t study science, tech, engineering or maths, I am the A in STEAM – the person who brings the multi disciplines together to solve problems.”
Dr Muir said International Women’s Day provided an opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of women and work towards narrowing the full-time gender pay gap, which is currently at 22 per cent in WA.
“Unfortunately, the pay gap is still at its highest in scientific, technical and professional industries, fields that are a driving force of jobs of the future,” Dr Muir said.
“International Women’s Day provides us with an annual reminder of what we can do to address this and work towards on political, social and economic equality together and address gender parity.”
Associate Professor Alex Luksyte, Business School
An expert in workplace equality and diversity, Associate Professor Luksyte is originally from Lithuania. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to carry out research in the United States where she completed a PhD at the University of Houston before coming to UWA.
Associate Professor Alex Luksyte, from UWA's Business School, is an expert in workplace equality and diversity.
Professor Luksyte said, even in her career there were still situations where gender stereotypes occurred.
“An insightful observation was when I arrived in Western Australia and met new people, they would often ask what job my husband had and would think I came to Australia because of my husband’s job,” she said.
“A lot of my research focuses on various forms of discrimination, when, for example, men and women receive different outcomes for demonstrating same work behaviour such as innovating, helping, speaking up, and ways we can improve diversity and gender quality in the workplace.
“It’s important to increase awareness, so that it’s not about whether a women or a man innovates or excels in the workplace, but for it to be about the merit of that person, regardless of their gender.”
Charlotte Birkmanis, PhD student and marine biologist, UWA Oceans Institute and School of Biological Sciences
Ms Birkmanis’ research is focused on oceanic sharks, investigating where sharks like to live, why they are there and how their numbers are changing over time.
Charlotte Birkmanis is a PhD student and marine biologist from UWA's Oceans Institute.
“Recently I was speaking about sharks at the Western Australian Museum,” Ms Birkmanis said. “When I finished, a young girl came up to me to tell me she had never seen a lady talk about sharks before and wanted to do this herself.
“This little girl inspired me to keep going. I realised that just by doing my job and being visible, I could inspire the next generation of young female scientists.”
Ms Birkmanis said it was critical to give everyone a seat at the table, with female scientists bringing a unique point of view because of different life experiences.
“It’s so important for researchers to communicate our work and latest scientific findings to the public. We also need to be visible as scientists to encourage the younger generation to pursue science too.
“My advice to young girls who want to pursue a career in science or technology is to just do it, and don’t be afraid of maths. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
Allison Ng, studying Frontiers of Physics
16-year old Allison is passionate about science and physics and cites Marie Curie, a physicist who pioneered research on radioactivity in the 1900s, as a source of inspiration.
16-year old Allison is passionate about science and physics.
The physics student and UWA Lawrence Scholarship recipient is one of the youngest students to join UWA this year and will be part of the new Frontier Physics program.
Allison said her mother helped inspire her from a young age that anything was possible, and that teaching and learning was important for everyone’s development.
“Science is really important for our future and I believe it can solve a lot of the problems in the world. That is why I am really excited to be studying STEM,” she said.
“We have come so far already with the development of electricity and smart devices and if we continue to promote and encourage gender equality in science, the possibilities of what men and women can achieve together are endless.”
Belinda Teh, UWA Law graduate
Law/Commerce graduate Belinda has played a key role in driving change for voluntary assisted dying laws.
Belinda Teh played a key role in driving change for voluntary assisted dying laws.
She was motivated to seek compassionate and quality end-of-life options for Australians after seeing the impact on her mother who died of breast cancer.
Ms Teh ran a sophisticated social media campaign, hosted public events, walked across Australia in memory of her mother and to raise awareness, and took the issue to the State Government.
Her advocacy has since seen the successful passage of voluntary assisted dying laws in WA.
Ms Teh said she was passionate about enabling future Australians to have a quality end-of-life and a choice about their end-of-life experiences.
“Ensuring quality end-of-life care in all aspects is something I am incredibly passionate about and is close to my heart," Ms Teh said.
“I'm pleased that through sharing my experiences with others and advocating for change, it has resulted in a positive outcome for voluntary assisted dying laws in WA.
“I think women can be incredible drivers of positive change. My mother was a very powerful role model to me and through her support, I have been able to help achieve a positive impact for the lives of other women and Australians.”