Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro 'encouraged' by STEM gender push


Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist and Women on Boards member, Professor Tanya Monro, is behind a project aimed at getting more women into senior STEM positions in the armed forces. 


The Australian Defence Force recently selected 80 people for its new Navigate program which provides a pathway for science, technology, engineering and mathematics specialists to transition into Defence, or to provide career mobility to current Defence STEM professionals.

Professor Monro said the new program offers a unique opportunity for high-performing STEM professionals from a range of academic disciplines and different backgrounds.

A key aim of the Navigate program is to increase female representation, particularly at more senior levels, and the program was launched with pre-determined gender targets (40% female, 40% male and 20% any gender).

Of the 818 applications received, 29 per cent of applicants were female. There were 302 applicants shortlisted to move to the assessment stage, of which 31 per cent were female.

Of the successful candidates offered a position, 43 per cent were female, 49 per cent were male, and 8 per cent were undisclosed.

“This female representation figure is very encouraging,” Professor Monro said.

“Navigate will enhance Defence’s ability to leverage cutting-edge technology to keep Australians safe,” Professor Monro said.

“Strengthening our STEM workforce gives us a significant advantage that is central to our efforts to further strengthen Defence capability.

“This program ensures we are enabling the best talent from across our community to realise their full potential in the service of our nation.”

Participants in Navigate will have the opportunity to work on solving some of Defence’s most significant science and technology challenges.

The 12-month program includes two six-month rotations, one-on-one mentoring and a dedicated professional development program, before participants are placed into a role within Defence.

About Professor Tanya Monro

Professor Tanya Monro was appointed Australia's Chief Defence Scientist in March 2019. Professor Monro was previously Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation and an ARC Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow at the University of South Australia.

Professor Monro was the inaugural Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) from 2008 to 2014 and was also the inaugural Director for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Bio Photonics (CNBP) at the University of Adelaide. Her research is in the field of photonics, with a focus on sensing, lasers and new classes of optical fibres.

Professor Monro obtained her PhD in physics in 1998 from The University of Sydney, for which she was awarded the Bragg Gold Medal for the best Physics PhD in Australia. In 2000, she received a Royal Society University Research Fellowship at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton in the UK and is also an inaugural Bragg Fellow of the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus).

Professor Monro is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (AAS), the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE), the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP). She is a member of the Board of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Her awards include: the Prime Minister's Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (2008), South Australian Scientist of the Year (2010), South Australia's Australian of the Year (2011), and the Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research (2015) and she is the 2019 SA winner of the Australian Award for Excellence in Women's Leadership.

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