A strong focus on disability, including neurodiversity, chronic illness and mental ill-health, marked an important evolution for the second edition of the inSTEM conference in September 2023.
A networking and career development conference for people from marginalised and underrepresented groups in STEM fields, inSTEM was held at RMIT University’s Storey Hall.
In addition to panel discussions and presentations, the conference included a sensory safe space and on-site counsellors to support attendees. This marked an important and timely step for equity and inclusion in STEM, with the introduction of legislation in April 2023 that sets out a code of practice for psychological safety in the workplace and puts a duty of care on workplaces to prevent psychological injury.
This focus on disability also highlighted the extent to which there is still much to learn (even for those from minority groups in STEM) about creating inclusive spaces for everyone, and considerable room for improvement in our workplaces.
This point was also emphasised through other key conference themes, including science communication and democratisation, and the importance of allies in creating meaningful change. Keynote speakers Dr Naomi Koh Belic (scientist, communicator and educator) and A/Prof. Alice Motion (Deputy Director, Sydney Nano Institute, and founder, Breaking Good) spoke about outreach activities they have facilitated, and the importance of centering minority voices and making science accessible to all.
Chris Lienert—leader of the Melbourne branch of Men Championing Change—was inspirational in his proactive approach to improving gender equity in tech and leadership as an ally.
All the sessions, and the Q&A from attendees, generated interesting and insightful discussions. This included an important, nuanced discussion on safe spaces and what it means to be inclusive.
inSTEM is an initiative of the STEM-focused ARC Centres of Excellence. It offers attendees a safe space where they can meet, make connections and build relationships with other researchers and research scholars. It also provides attendees the opportunity to learn from experts on topics and strategies that support career development and progression, and to participate in discussions on how to create change that improves access, supports retention and champions success in STEM for individuals from marginalised or underrepresented groups.
After a successful inaugural inSTEM conference in 2022, this year the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) handed over the hosting reigns to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems (TMOS).
In additional to EQUS and TMOS, eight other ARC Centres of Excellence were involved in 2023:
- All-Sky Astrophysics in Three Dimensions (ASTRO3D);
- Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH);
- Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T);
- Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science (CIPPS);
- Dark Matter Particle Physics (CDM);
- Exciton Science;
- Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET);
- Gravitational-Wave Discovery (OzGrav).
This article was adapted from a story written by Kristen Harley of EQUS.