With an impressive career as an engineer and renewable energy expert, Dr Morley wears multiple hats. She is a board director with Women in STEM Australia, an Ambassador of CSIRO's Innovation Catalyst Global, on the Advisory Group of the Elevate Program with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, an expert panel member for the RISE Program (Diversity Council Australia Settlement Services International and Chief Executive Woman). Morley is also part of the Executive Committee with Science Technology Australia, a member of Energy Reference Group with Gemini Energy, providing expert advice on energy transition tariffs and electricity price research and a cofounder of ISTEM.
She talks to Cultural Diversity Committee member, Gloria Yuen about her career, her what she’s passionate about and how she’s working to change the face of diversity and inclusion by developing an Ai tool called DARE (diversity, equity, inclusion and retention) that eliminates bias in the recruitment process.
Dr Morley shares how she achieved her board roles and imparts many words of wisdom, including the importance of understanding the value you bring, how it’s important to take the time to undertake a reflective journey, the benefits of networking and building genuine relationships, as well as being visible and prepared. here are some of the key talking points:
‘To be innovative we need to be inclusive’
The biggest challenge I see within Australia, and also in the world, is gender equity in STEM. When we talk about renewable energy, we talk about climate change, the energy transition. We need people to fill those roles.
Twenty years ago, we didn't think that there would be occupations like software engineers, DevOps. Companies that refuse to embrace the digital age, like Nokia or Kodak, they ran out of business or they lost that place that they had to other companies like Apple, Samsung. So we have to be innovative. But for us to be innovative, we have to be inclusive.
Initially we set a target to hit 100% renewables in Australia by 2050. That has been brought closer to meet 82% by 2030. Currently we have 25% of our energy in Victoria being produced by solar panels - so renewables. And there is a push for electric vehicles and to become more sustainable. If we are going to have that big push in energy transition, who is going to fill these roles? Women. We are the future.
According to the Tech Council of Australia, by 2030 we would need additional 1.2 million tech workers. Who is going to fill those roles? By 2025, 90% of the jobs in Australia would need STEM skills. We currently have only 27% of women working in STEM across Australia, wiith only 15% of women with STEM qualifications actually working in STEM.
Retention and gender intersection
The biggest challenge we have to diversity and inclusion is retention. We have 36% of graduates in STEM across Australia identify as women, but that's not translating into employment and leadership. I think one of the areas where we've been unsuccessful is we've tried to solve it solely from a gender lens. Unfortunately, we can't do that alone. We have to consider gender intersection.
From the STEM Workforce report by Australia's Chief Scientist released in 2020, the statistics show that 56% of university qualified women in STEM in Australia are Australian women born overseas. Migrant women. These are not temporary migrants, these are not students. These are women who have made that very difficult journey to call Australia home for whatever reason.
Unfortunately, they experience over four times higher unemployment rates. Women as a whole experience problems retaining their employment in STEM, so they switch into other areas. If this keeps happening, we are losing money, we are losing talent. When I looked at this problem, I decided I'll be part of the solution.
On tackling gender bias
I started a company called ISTEM (which stands for Illuminate STEM). We work with STEM companies across Australia to help them recruit and retain talent through different programs.
But we noticed that there was still a big challenge. When we started talking to more women, especially women from underserved communities, we started hearing things like they had to change their names to Anglo names to gain opportunities; women who had taken a career break and wanted to come back into the industry had to hide their age. We saw that women with extensive overseas qualifications had to somehow hide their country of birth. We all know that these things are wrong, but we can keep saying they are wrong. If we don't do anything, nothing changes.
So together with AI and data scientist Dr Rongi Fernando we decided to create a platform - an anonymous recruitment tool called DARE (diversity, equity, inclusion and retention) which uses technology and AI to eliminate recruitment bias.
Advice for CALD women on getting a board role
I'm not the typical stereotypical person that would get into boards. But I'll tell you what makes a difference for me - I know the value that I bring. Be passionate about solving a problem, not just looking for opportunities.
If you're an aspiring woman wanting to get into board, I would suggest to take some time. It's called a reflective journey. Get a journal and try to ask yourself some very honest questions. What are some mistakes? What's been your journey so far? Where are you at? Where do you want to be?
Then ask, what are some organizations that align with my values? Then just reach out. LinkedIn is a perfect tool if you're not using it and it has really helped me in my journey.
Be visible, take on opportunities like this, invitations to do podcasts, invitations to speak at events, if you can. In that way, your expertise will come through. People will get to know you.
Believe in the value that you bring on board. Don't let anyone make you feel otherwise. Network and then put yourself out there. Be visible and opportunities will come to you, but also be prepared.
Advice to directors and board chairs in increasing representation?
When I speak to CEOs and business leaders, they say, ‘we’re struggling to find women or diverse people within our organisation’. The first question I ask is, where are you looking? And most times they'll say through referrals and networking, which is good. The problem though, is if your network looks like you, it's completely homogeneous - what you get is what you have.
So the first thing I would love to encourage leaders to do is to expand their network. Get people that don't look like you. Different gender, different skin color, different expert knowledge. That's what diversity really is. And look broadly. For you to see a change, you also have to be willing to make some changes.
For women who are on boards, I would encourage you to speak up. First of all, you are there because you deserve to be there. You are there to make a difference. Don't be a passive board member. Speak up. Your ideas, your contributions are valued because sometimes women and people from underserved background, when given that opportunity to be at the table, there is this perception that you should be so grateful and just be quiet. You don't have to tear the room down and be completely confrontational.
But you should have your views heard. If you do not agree with something, you should politely be able to express that. Because remember that when you're there, it's not just Gloria that you're representing, but you're representing Gloria who is a woman, Gloria who is a woman of color, Gloria who is speaking for women coming in through the door, women at mid level, women at senior level. So if you are quiet when you're in those rooms, you're a dissatisfaction to the women or to the people that you are representing.