This article is part of a series of SBS news stories that mark the National Science Week (August 11-19).
Skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics play a crucial role in supporting innovation and the Australian economy. But women only account for about a fifth of the STEM workforce.
Educating students about their career possibilities within STEM-related fields remains a challenge, but experts say reaching out to these students when they are young and providing role models is a strategy to help them develop their learning.
SBS News spoke with three women at various stages of their STEM careers to find out what motivates them.
The teacher: Michelle Simmons
From an early age Michelle Simmons was interested in how the world worked.
"I looked around and saw the complexity of making an airplane take off … then I realized that we were made of atoms … and my question was always if you could rearrange the atoms in a different way, what would you get? & # 39; "he told SBS News.
That curiosity led to a career in physics when designing smaller and faster computers at the University of New South Wales, and in 2018 she was named Australian of the year.
Professor Simmons says that quantum computers have the potential to change the world:
"It has been predicted that it will influence approximately 40 percent of the Australian industry, whether in transportation … more accurate and predictive weather forecast … drug design … to the financial sector looking for how to model the profiles of the customers "
But she was just one of the three women in a class of 60 at the university.
"When you look around the class, it's kind of weird … but I think if you're passionate about a subject, you do not think about those things."
She recognizes the sacrifices that have been made along the way.
"I have a young family, so you have to choose, I come to the lab to do an experiment on a Sunday afternoon or I go to that sports game," he said. "I have an excellent support system, an excellent husband, and I have made it work, but I have to make that kind of calls daily."
The student: Tamina Pitt
With a love of science and mathematics, Tamina Pitt is completing her final year of computer engineering studies at the University of New South Wales.
One in ten students in their grade are women.
"When I was little I did not see anyone who looked like me who studied engineering," he said, adding that he had no role model to "connect with" in the STEM field.
Her dedication to science led her to win the NAIDOC Youth of the Year award in July along with two Google internships.
"We created our own application that was a kind of security application and image processing and then, the second time I was there, I was working on one of their SDKs, which are software development kits, which they sell to customers," He said.
Ms. Pitt said she hoped to combine her indigenous heritage with her love of science.
"I will try to get a job as a software engineer and develop my skills … looking at how I can use technology to specifically help indigenous peoples, I think it's something I want to work on in the future."
The small businessman: Natalie Chapman
Natalie Chapman sponsored a STEM themed room at her local elementary school in South Sydney to provide equipment that includes robotics kits to help inspire students.
The owner of the small business told SBS News: "The staff is very enthusiastic about the children's inspiration and wanted to help with that and provide additional resources … I do not think I can inspire enough.
"The more we can keep them interested in STEM … we will have more of them in university degrees and many of them will assume roles that are important for the country."
Natalie has led a diverse career, graduated with a degree in chemistry and then worked with the Organization of Nuclear Science and Technology of Australia. Subsequently, he created his own company, Gemaker, with a team of 15 people, mostly women, who helped the researchers market their ideas.
"We help them launch plans, find funding, help them connect with customers … the commercialization of any technology takes a long time."
Ms. Chapman says her education was crucial:
"The STEM title really gave me good skills to solve complex problems, and that's why everything I have is something new that someone is bringing to the market and I have to figure out how."