Industry stories inspire girls to take maths subjects

Date: 1 November 2018

In August 2018, 297 students from 27 schools gathered at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar for MAV’s Girls in STEM Day. Various industry partners supported the event, with Ford acting as Gold Sponsor. This is the second year that MAV has run this event and it won’t be the last! The day was inspiring and it’s fair to say that students’ attitudes to STEM won’t ever be the same. STEM is infinitely interesting and the career possibilities are sky high.

Students heard from an impressive line up of women:

  • Dr Sue Barrell, Chief Scientist and Group Executive, Science and Innovation, Bureau of Meterology
  • Taryn James, Aerodynamicist, Ford
  • Chivonne Hollis, Architect, CHT Architects
  • Sarah Cirillo, Mechanical Engineer, Thales
  • Sharon Lai, Economist, Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Kirsten Pilatti, CEO, BCNA (Breast Cancer Network Australia)
  • Kimberley Whitehead, Civil Engineer, VEC

Videos of these inspiring speakers are available for use in your school, click here for access.

It was fascinating to hear the career paths of these women, and even more intriguing to hear about the depth and importance of their roles in adding value to society. The stories shared demonstrate that STEM careers are accessible for everyone. Speakers showed how mathematics and science is applied to their jobs and the important outcomes they are achieving.

What makes it exciting to work in such a career? Designing a building or a bridge that brings communities together, developing objects, devices or equipment that improve people’s quality of life, and dealing with the social implications and challenges along the way, are examples of what STEM is really about. It’s the outcomes that are important, and clearly what people find valuable in such a career.

Presenters shared their stories; the journey they took, the contributions they have made, the impact of being a female, tips for success, and how to overcome obstacles along the way.

There was a particular emphasis on the importance of mathematics in VCE subject selection, university degrees and in STEM careers.

Bringing it to life

Architect Chivonne Hollis was part of the team that designed and constructed an aged care facility in Werribee. Many of the residents suffer from dementia – so it was important for the architects to design a building that could offer these residents the feeling and comforts of home. Differently sized windows on the face of the building allowed residents to easily identify which room was theirs, patterns on the carpet brought touches of familiarity, open communal spaces easily allow for wheelchair access. Each room was different to allow residents to better understand where they were inside the facility. Mathematics is used in every element of design from the pitch of ramps and roofs, elevations, geometry of openings, radius of door openings, width of hallways and dimensions of bedrooms. The building of a physical structure includes the work of many STEM careers: architects, modellers, builders, engineers and surveyors.

Girls in STEM bringing it to life


MAV will hold a Girls in STEM event again on Friday 9 August 2019 and encourages any teachers who are interested in bringing students to register online through the MAV website Bookings open on International Women’s Day, Friday 8 March 2019. The day is aimed at Years 9-11 students who have an interest in STEM careers and mathematics subjects, and will include industry speakers and hands-on activities.

If you are an industry partner interested in sponsoring or participating, please contact Ellen Corovic,

Peter Batchelor

Peter is the Webmaster of the Mathematical Association of Victoria. A long, long time ago he was a Primary teacher and then taught computer subjects and Mathematics to Year 10 before becoming a lecturer at RMIT and then working with subject associations to develop their web presence.

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