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Leading women ‘Choose to Challenge’ traditional views about manufacturing on International Women’s Day

07-03-2021
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If shopping for the latest items on the shelves excites you, then you have something in common with one of Australia’s leading manufacturing advocates.

Dr Kymberley Talbot says she has a “blackbelt in shopping” but she is also Managing Director of the lithium-ion battery developer company, FELINE, based in the Gold Coast.

She joins many women leaders in manufacturing celebrating International Women’s Day theme “Choose to Challenge", backed by Australia’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) in calling for more women in leading manufacturing initiatives.

AMGC’s Managing Director Dr Jens Goennemann supports the International Women’s Day challenge and explains that, “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”.

Their own research has identified the need to bolster low female participation in manufacturing and the need to make this happen as Australian manufacturing moves from the position of a “lucky country” to a “smart country”.

One of the key factors contributing to low female participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is the lack of representation of female leads in STEM and understanding the exciting pathways manufacturing can offer.

Currently, AMGC’s research indicates 47% of students are more likely to consider a career in manufacturing after being able to explore varied opportunities. Australian manufacturing career opportunities across multiple disciplines are in high demand and with high paying roles.

Dr Kymberley Talbot says “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".

Similar sentiments are echoed in a publication titled Advancing Women in STEM Strategy, championed by Engineer and Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Honourable Karen Andrews MP.

Minister Andrews is passionate about seeing more women taking on STEM careers to increase women’s participation in manufacturing roles. It’s not only important for women but also “vital for strengthening Australia’s economy and creating jobs the future needs”.

Further research conducted as part of AMGC’s 10 ways to succeed in Australian manufacturing report involved over 1000 students across the nation, presented with information about what today’s manufacturing looks like.

The image of the blue overalls and dark sheds is outdated, replaced by a manufacturing industry as diverse as the population of Australia where something is being made in every sector of the economy.

As a result many female participants agree that having a better understanding of the industry’s opportunities and seeing themselves included in communications about manufacturing will have a strong impact on their “mental availability” to choose 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.

She believes that the only thing that will “stop women and girls pursuing a career in STEM is themselves. If you want it, you can have it”.

“A career in STEM is an opportunity to be on the cutting-edge and work with latest technology, in careers which are the fastest-growing in the world.

“I always enjoyed making things and curious about how things work - even as a child. I was building things with Lego, I wanted my own Meccano set, and I like to play with JayCar electronic kits.”

A similar interest in STEM studies in high school led Dr Priscilla Rogers to becoming an entrepreneur reinventing the way vehicles interact with the road.

“I took comfort in the exacting nature of all my STEM subjects and appreciated that with enough learning and time, I could achieve the “right answer".

In tandem with her husband, Dr Rogers, who took her Bachelor of Engineering in Monash University is described by many as an industry disruptor, and is leading the company, DOFTEK.

“My advice to young females considering a career in STEM is to realise that you can take your career in any direction you like. Problem solving, critical thinking and analytical reasoning are highly desired across many industries,” she says.

While AMGC data suggests a lack of visible female STEM leaders impacts consideration of a career pathway in STEM, being inspired by family or their own passion and instinct to succeed also played a significant part.

Dr Heba Khamis: “My dad encouraged me to combine the medical science degree with an engineering degree in case the medical pathway didn’t work out. It was an exciting move. Also having the medical science background enabled me to work in biomedical engineering research- combining a love for solving problems and a passion for health. So why not consider a career in STEM?”

Dr Kymberley Talbot: “I was fortunate enough to see the Tesla Gigafactory in its early days, so hands down my current advanced manufacturing idol is Elon Musk. Talk about a rocket ride. So be the mistress of your own destiny.”

Dr Priscilla Rogers: “My advice is to use your perspective as a female to your advantage. With strong skills in empathy and social and emotional intelligence, females make strong team players and project leaders and are excellent in listening to customer needs.

"I am a big believer that passion and success are closely aligned. I recommend students think of moments when they are really happy and find a career that aligns with that.”

And with final words from this team of Australian manufacturing leaders to anyone thinking about a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, here are some wise words from Hon Karen Andrews MP.

“Myself and another Karen were the first women to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree from Queensland University of Technology. But today, things are different - girls and women are now taking their rightful place in all sorts of university courses and professions and I want to see more of it.”

To learn more about how Australian manufacturing is changing and those driving this change, students, teachers and parents are encouraged to visit AMGC’s free Manufacturing Academy to hear from leaders from across the manufacturing industry.

 

FELINE - www.feline.com.au

CONTACTILE - www.contactile.com/about

DOFTEK - www.doftek.com.au

AMGC - www.manufacturingacademy.org.au       phone: 0418 826 936 / 0424 254 985

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