Observations

Women in Astronomy: The Future of Women in STEM

Raghda Abdel Khaleq is an astronomy guide at Sydney Observatory and a physics student at the University of New South Wales. To celebrate International Women’s Day Raghda looks towards the future of women in STEM.

‘Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.’ – Unknown

As we come to an end in our International Women’s Day blog series, it can be easy to marvel at the numerous achievements of women in physics and astronomy and forget that there is still much more work to be done to truly achieve gender equality. Here in Australia, women earn 16.0% less than men in their full-time average weekly earnings and only hold 16.3% of CEO positions, according to a 2017 report by the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Globally, a 2017 World Economic Forum report predicts that the economic gender gap will take more than 200 years to reduce to parity. These statistics are concerning, and are indicative of behind-the-scenes, deeply rooted gender inequality and bias.

This is why it is so important for institutions, organisations, groups and individuals to work towards overcoming these restrictive boundaries. It is often not enough to simply claim that women are valuable to our workplaces and learning environments- there must also be accompanying action that actively supports, nurtures, and advances women in STEM. This support has previously come in the form of seminars, workshops, scholarships for young girls and women, and mentorship programs. Other smaller actions can take the form of articles, blog posts or even starting conversations about these issues.

Although the number of women with STEM qualifications has risen by 23 percent between 2006 and 2011, it continues to be a struggle to increase interest in STEM amongst young girls. Sparking curiosity and acknowledging the unique perspectives that women can bring to innovative methods is important in encouraging more young women to enter STEM fields. More importantly, celebrating successful female STEM role models is perhaps one of the best ways to inspire young girls to pursue science. We’ve asked one of our very own superstars, Kirsten Banks, about her experiences as a woman in Physics:

‘My field is Physics, which is a highly male dominated field. As a woman in this field, I feel empowered to be put up against my male colleagues as an equal. It is really important that we as a community strive to invite more young women into STEM.’ – Kirsten Banks, Sydney Observatory Guide and Physics Student at UNSW

Kirsten Banks at Sydney Observatory
                                 Image Credit: Kirsten Banks ©, all rights reserved.

You can follow Kirsten’s inspiring astronomy journey by using the tag @AstroKirsten on either Facebook or Twitter.

We hope you have enjoyed our International Women’s Day blog series!

Return to 2018 Women in Astronomy: Introduction

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