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Rich Thinking: Dr Janin Bredehoeft, CEO, Science in Australia Gender Equity

Meet the new CEO tasked with keeping more women in STEM industries.

A portrait image of Dr Janin Bredehoeft, CEO, Science in Australia Gender Equity.
Dr Janin Bredehoeft says there needs to be a focus on the retention of women in STEM industries. (Source: supplied)

How do we bridge the gap - particularly with gender-segregated workforces like STEM?

The data shows many women (37%) study STEM subjects yet, when it comes to being in the industry and in the workforce, this number drops as time goes on and, as a result, only 8 per cent of CEOs are women in the STEM field.

We don’t have trouble attracting women to the industry but we need to focus on retention and not losing the women and diverse groups of employees that we have in there. Organisations really have a lot to do to create environments where women, and other people - from other men or other groups - are happy to stay and feel supported and, you know, can thrive throughout their careers.

What are some tactics that employers can adopt to move towards more equity for women in the industry?

It takes more than just saying women are supported. Employers need to reduce bias in their recruitment and promotion practices. All managers need to ask themselves if they are favouring some people over others because of their gender, ethnicity or social group.

More Rich Thinking:

If we look at leadership positions, there's still the perception that leadership positions need to be full-time. So, how can we create innovative ways that we can, you know, promote part-time roles in leadership - because we know women do work part-time through a lot of their working lives - so we can accommodate that?

It’s still so common to equate leadership and seniority with long hours and full-time roles when there should be a lot more focus on the quality of the work rather than quantity or presenteeism.

Dr Janin Bredehoeft, CEO, Science in Australia Gender Equity poses with a guest outside an International Women's Day event.
Dr Janin Bredehoeft says making mistakes is a crucial part of learning. (Source: supplied)

What can be done to support and help this change?

Too often organisations still want to “fix“ women, so let’s stop that. Let's really ask what women need, because they will tell you, and if they need flexible work, then make that happen.

What are the benefits of an equitable and inclusive workforce?

Research consistently shows that the more equitable and diverse workplaces are, the more it leads to improved employee motivation, satisfaction, well-being, and it improves the bottom line and productivity of the organisation.

In fact the more diverse the leaders were, the higher the return, so there's really no excuse.

As a society, we are diverse so, surely you would want your organisation to reflect society because that's your customer base.

What changes - in terms of gender equity and progress - have you seen in your career?

We've become really great, particularly in Australia, in collecting data that really supports the case. So, we have all the data and we've used that to create the case for change.

We have seen more men taking up parental leave, which is a good step in the right direction. And we've seen a lot more flexible working since the start of COVID. However, there is still a very long way to go.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?

I do find that question very funny because I made so many mistakes in my life, really. But I wish that I could go back and say: “It doesn't matter that you made these mistakes, because it means you’ll do better next time.” I always learned from those mistakes.

Oh and maybe to not have spent all my money on travelling - to put away a little bit of money to invest. That would have been good.

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