Our Mission is to achieve professional liberation, the freedom to pursue one’s professional goals, to the extent of one’s own aptitude without externally imposed limitations, for all women, particularly those from historically underrepresented populations. Using cultural, structural and disciplinary sources of authority to produce new knowledge.
About STEM Sisters
Founded by Ruwangi, STEM Sisters was first initiated at Victoria University in 2017, to attract and celebrate women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) at Victoria University. With the support of Victoria University and SSAF funding. STEM Sisters was able to organise many events to network female and male students and academics to support female STEM students to achieve career goals at Victoria University.
STEM workforce plays an increasingly important role in the Australian economy as they are critical to the country’s innovation and responsible for many of the cutting-edge ideas and technologies that create new jobs and raise the living standards of all Australians. It’s evident that Australia needs more diverse STEM population as diversity hugely benefits the technological innovation at large. Currently, only 39.7 per cent of the STEM workforce is female and even lesser for culturally diverse women. But its important to know that 35 per cent of people with STEM qualifications living in Australia is born elsewhere. Therefore, we need, include and sustain more STEM women of colour in Australian STEM workforce by promoting a career in STEM is attractive and attainable as any other.
There are many Australian STEM organisations which support women in STEM, but no specific organisation in Australia supports STEM women of colour. In particular , no organization supports migrated STEM women or international female students who are studying STEM related courses in Australia and STEM Sisters was initiated to bridge this gap.
Dr Ruwangi Fernando, Founder
Dr Ruwangi Fernando is an Information Technology specialist with experience in broader IT technologies, including Artificial Intelligence. She holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from Victoria University, a masters in Strategic IT from The University of Wolverhampton, UK another masters in Human Resources and a bachelor’s degree in IT from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Having worked as an international academic in Sri Lanka, the UK, and Australia and a consultant for top-tier companies internationally, she is now a changemaker for Women of colour in STEM and advocating for an intersectional approach to diversity and inclusion in the Australian STEM sector.
Dr Fernando completed her PhD at Victoria University in collaboration with Data61, CSIRO and the Department of Transport in Victoria.
She has received many accolades for her research, including the winner of Three Minute Thesis and Visualising Thesis, which focused on how computer algorithms can predict and plan for traffic disruptions caused by major events, such as football games or concerts. She received the 2021 Victoria University Postgraduate Student Spirit Award and was shortlisted as a finalist for the Victorian International Research Student of the Year 2021 award for her exceptional leadership skills.
Dr Fernando founded STEM Sisters in 2017, the first organisation dedicated to empowering women of Colour in STEM, delivering seven award-winning structured programs, events, workshops and advocacy campaigns. She was recognised for her efforts and awarded STEM Women Changemaker by the Australian Academy of Science, Victorian Lead Scientist, Pro Bono Australia and Women’s Agenda. Under her leadership, STEM Sisters won many awards, including the 2022 Techdiversity Business award, International excellence award 2022, and multicultural excellence award 2022 and recognitions from Hon Minister Pulford and Victorian Chief Scientist Dr Amanda Caples.
Since March 2022, Dr Fernando is also the co-founder of iSTEM Co. research, consulting and talent-sourcing company whose core objective is to enable the employment of women of colour and women from CALD backgrounds in Australia’s STEM organisations. To date, iSTEM Co. won BETA Pre-Accelerator Award and the Impact Award by Lift Women and is a finalist for the Women in Digital awards in November 2022.
Dr Fernando is a born leader, academic, researcher, consultant, entrepreneur, AI specialist, and speaker. She is devoted to advocating for diversity and inclusion in STEM and the importance of intersectionality.
Our advisory panel consists of well-recognised STEM DIVERSITY and Inclusion experts who guide our progress. Specifically, the Advisory Panel provide advice and guidance to the STEM Sisters project team by:
Providing referrals to knowledge experts and sources of information where these might prove beneficial,
Providing feedback on, as requested, select content to ensure accuracy of the information presented to the public, and;
STEM Sisters Volunteers
Volunteers enrich our culture, strengthen our relationships and help to make our work more effective by contributing their time, skills, energy and enthusiasm.
Volunteers contribute to all initiatives of STEM Sisters. They help us to raise awareness, campaign for change, provide administrative support, assist in events and offer their skills, time and experience to help us carry out our work.
Acknowledgment of Country
STEM Sisters, recognises and respects the Ancestors, Elders and families of the Boonwurrung, Wadawurrung and Wurundjeri of the Kulin who are the traditional owners of land in Victoria.