The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
Meet the ‘Kim Kardashians’ of Australia’s scientific world
SOCIAL media influencers like Kim Kardashian are household names but some of Australia’s top female physicists are frustrated most girls have no idea Australia has a female Nobel prize winner.
Scientists at Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) said while there’s nothing wrong with following influencers, there needs to be more recognition for women in science.
“When a sports figure wins a cup it becomes big news, or when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West get a divorce … when I think of the appointment of Cathy Foley as chief scientist that should be a part of that news,” ANSTO’s human health research leader Mitra SafeviNaeini said.
“The achievement of women in science and technology should be something that we celebrate.”
Participation rates for students in advanced maths and science are dangerously low — girls made up just 23 per cent of the HSC physics cohort last year and only 32 per cent of girls enrolled in advanced or extension mathematics, compared to 45 per cent of boys.
In 2016 just 29 per cent of those going to university to study physics were women.
ANSTO’s Group Executive Nuclear Precinct Pamela NaidooAmeglio said she wished more teenage girls would celebrate scientists as role models.
“There are Instagram influencers with millions of followers, but not many teenagers would recognise the name of Australian Nobel prize recipient Professor Elizabeth Blackburn,” Ms Naidoo-Ameglio said.
“I’m not saying there’s not a skill to learning dance routines, but I just wish the woman who, for example, won a Nobel prize following DNA breakthroughs that changed the way we treat cancer, also had a bit more recognition among young women.”