I’m thrilled to have been selected as the 2019 ARC Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow.
Fifteen years ago I was at home with my second baby, wondering what my future held. I was hoping to work part-time, but I didn’t see how I was going to be able to do that and stay in science. We talk about the ‘leaky pipeline’ for women in science – I was very much at the point of ‘leaking out’.
But the leaky pipeline is a terrible analogy, because there is no way to leak back in to a pipe. We need a better analogy. Highways, for example, have both off-ramps and on-ramps. We are encouraged to take off-ramps. Take a break, attend to our personal needs, do a bit of sightseeing and then take the on-ramp refreshed and ready to drive on. People who take off-ramps have a better journey! The key is providing on-ramps so they can get back onto the highway.
In my role as Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow I particularly want to foster a discussion about how we provide on-ramps for women (and men) who want to take detours. I’m hoping that my own experience of working part-time for ten years before going on to win a Laureate fellowship will serve as an example and inspiration for that discussion.
I’m also hoping to spread the word to girls and women about the importance of maths and computing in all fields of science. My own field is ecology, but my background is in mathematics. It’s noticeable that while there are many women working in ecology, there are many fewer working in computational ecology – yet that’s where many of the most important advances are being made right now. Building women’s confidence in the areas of maths and computing is crucial to improving women’s representation in science across the board.