Brisbane-based Environmental Scientist at international engineering firm SMEC Holly Roberts-Simmonds is preparing to celebrate International Women’s Day this Friday 8 March with students at Somerville House in South Brisbane.

Holly said that with International Women’s Day coming up, she had been thinking about what SMEC could do to encourage more young girls to choose careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). “There are many stereotypical careers that come to mind when we mention STEM, but I recommend doing some research into all the STEM areas because there are thousands of topics and opportunities that fall underneath the broad term,” she said. “I would like to see more girls being exposed to women within STEM industries. When young women look at Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics companies and advertisements they see few women, activating the stereotype that these kinds of jobs mustn’t be suitable for women.”

These preconceptions were a main driver for a Girls in Science program that Holly recently helped to lead at SMEC. Around 240 Year 4 and Year 9 students from Somerville House in South Brisbane participated in the program, which introduced them to the incredible, multifaceted and rewarding world of science, as Holly explains. “SMEC Senior Rail Engineer Catherine Das Gupta and I shared our career experiences and led the students through an interactive workshop, providing a realistic insight into negotiation techniques and design constraints that Engineers and Environmental Scientists face every day.”

The results were fantastic with an 86 per cent increase in the number of students who understand what engineers and scientists do, a 32 per cent increase in the number of students who thought engineering and science were cool, a 63 per cent decrease in the number of students who thought science and engineering are mainly for males and an 18 per cent increase in the number of students who are likely to pursue a career in science or engineering. “We’ve helped 240 young girls understand and appreciate science and engineering as a possible career choice!” said Holly. “I honestly couldn’t be more excited to continue inspiring, encouraging and empowering young women to take an active role in the transformation of STEM industries. To any young woman considering her options, I can promise you that a career in STEM will be one of the most rewarding, adventurous and fun career paths that you will ever take.”

SMEC ANZ CEO, James Phillis, says he and his colleagues are actively championing diversity in the workforce. “I’m a member of Consult Australia’s Male Champions of Change (CAMCC); a network of 14 Chief Executives and Managing Directors working collaboratively to increase the representation and influence of women within firms and across the Built Environment,” he said. “SMEC is founded on diversity. Our employees are located across over 40 countries and form the backbone and success of our organisation. SMEC is striving to be a leader when it comes to championing diversity, and we are well on our way to achieving lasting change. We are committed to working across all levels of our business to create an inclusive, diverse and equitable workplace culture at SMEC.”

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