Champions win UNSW President’s Award for Embracing Diversity

By Sara Loo

Last week, our very own UNSW Women in Maths and Science Champions were awarded the UNSW President’s Award for Embracing Diversity. The UNSW President’s Awards recognise UNSW staff not only for their work, but how they conduct their work – be it in demonstrating excellence, driving innovation, building collaboration, displaying respect, or embracing diversity. The Award for Embracing Diversity celebrates those who actively promote and demonstrate the inclusion of others, and who value individual differences. This is reflected in positive outcomes for the individuals involved, the university, and wider community.

Our champions accepting the President's Award for Embracing Diversity
Our champions accepting the President’s Award for Embracing Diversity

Despite the program having only begun in November 2018, our champions have volunteered hundreds of hours of their time in outreach to young women across NSW. From high school students in Gilgandra, to celebrating International Women’s Day at the Australian National Maritime Museum, our champions have surprised students, sharing with them the joys of science and encouraging them to see science as a creative endeavour that is within reach. But far from doing this alone, our champions have joined arms in this endeavour, celebrating their different backgrounds and perspectives. Our first two cohorts have built their own network of support, advocating one another’s stories and, as highlighted in our nomination, have banded together to “break down stereotypes and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to discover science.”

Lisa celebrating the award with her son, the winner of best sleeping baby
Lisa celebrating the award with her son, the winner of best sleeping baby

From day one of the program, they have risen to the role of visibility and have stood tall and proud of their work. Our women have become role models, not only to the students they have interacted with, but also for each other. Over lunch, coffee, and across tables in often time-intense development workshops, they have journeyed to being lifelong advocates of maths and science.

As Prof Emma Johnston told our scientists on the launch day of the first cohorts, and as Siobhan Campbell (our program coordinator) echoed on the night the champions won the award – “you cannot be what you cannot see”. This is the battle cry of the women in our program. This has been their inspiration as they have written about one another, retweeted one another, and organised and facilitated outreach events with one another. Of the win, Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith, an early career researcher in the program’s first year said,

“I took up a career in science because I had a strong female role model growing up. So I joined the program because I thought it was essential that other young girls have access to STEM role models. This award means a lot because it shows UNSW genuinely believes in this vision too.”

Congratulations to our champions, who throughout their careers have been advocates for a change in the perception of what it means to be a mathematician and scientist, and who will undoubtedly continue to do so.

To hear what Project Officer Siobhan Campbell had to say about our Champions click here.

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