South Australian Museum celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science with new display

The South Australian Museum has responded to evidence that less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women by launching Her Story: Inspiring Women in STEM.

The free series of displays recognises, supports and celebrates the enduring legacy of some remarkable Australian women of science in order to inspire the next generation, and saliently is being launched on International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

South Australian Museum Director Mr Brian Oldman said Her Story, now in its second year, is an intentional effort by the Museum to share with its young audience a powerful message about the importance of role models for young girls who may be discouraged by gender stereotypes.

“The Museum has a significant audience of over 40,000 school children, and over one million global visitors – many of which are students, families, and early years learners. The Her Story displays speak openly about the personal and professional challenges faced by these high-achieving women in order to connect and encourage girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths),” said Mr Oldman.

“Full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and social empowerment,” he said.

The 2020 Her Story program launched with a display about Emily Hack, a recent graduate with a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and a Bachelor of Science, double majoring in chemistry, from the University of Adelaide.

Ms Hack said that her STEM story started in primary school, where she excelled at maths.

“I would finish my maths tasks quickly, but whereas the boys that I helped in class were given advanced mathematical problems to solve, I wasn’t,” said Ms Hack.

“Fortunately I have a very supportive mother and she worked with me to find a high school that turned this around and helped me thrive. I forged strong bonds with the others girls in my maths class and we excelled together,” she said.

When it came to choosing a tertiary course of study Ms Hack took a punt on civil engineering at the University of Adelaide.

“The challenge of being a woman in STEM continued at university where, during group assignments, I was delegated a note-taking and editorial role, rather than an engineering one, by my male peers.

“My female lecturers encouraged me to undertake a work placement to discover that these barriers don’t exist in professional environments, and join the University of Adelaide Women in STEM Careers Program.

“This helped immeasurably with my personal and professional development, and allowed me to create networks that have seen me gaining a role at SA Water in their Graduate Program.

“My advice to girls and young women considering a career in STEM is to find a supportive tribe of women. From my mother, to my high school peers, to university staff, I’ve found the opportunity to use my skills and make a positive impact on the world,” said Ms Hack.

Each display in the series will be exhibited for three months, and after Emily Hack will feature:

  • Professor Caroline McMillen, Chief Scientist for South Australia. On view from 14 May.

  • Colonel (Ret’d) Pamela Melroy, Former NASA Astronaut and Director, Space Technology and Policy at Nova Systems. On view from 20 August.

  • Dr Rachael King, Senior Research Scientist at the South Australian Museum. On view from 19 November.

Her Story: Inspiring Women in STEM is made possible with support from the Hon. Dr Diana Laidlaw AM. Additional support is kindly provided by the Women in STEM Careers (WISC) program at the University of Adelaide, and Randy Larcombe film + stills. Entry is free.


Released 11 February 2020

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