Three female University of Wollongong leaders have been honoured in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List.
Senior Professor Julie Robyn Steele and Professor Judy Agnes Raper received Member of the Order of Australia (AM) awards.
Former UOW academic, Emeritus Professor Sharon Joy Bell also received an AM for significant service to tertiary education, and as an advocate for gender equity.
Fittingly the AM recipients were acknowledged for their work in the traditionally male-dominated STEM field.
Professor Bell, who is now Western Sydney University deputy vice-chancellor, said women were virtually invisible in the sciences when she first started studying.
“So I began at an early stage asking the question where are the women and that basically continued into the work that I’ve done over the last 15 years on women in the tertiary education sector and in science in particular,” Prof Bell said.
The former Women in STEMM Australia chair (2016-17) said it is now 10 years since she did a report on women in science for Science and Technology Australia.
“I suppose the findings were shocking to many people because what it showed was despite the fact there was a lot of participation in a range of scientific fields up to undergraduate level, there was a real fall of of women in senior roles, in leadership roles in universities,” the Austinmer resident said.
“I couldn’t say what we’ve seen over the last 10 years is dramatic change.
“We’ve seen significant improvement but the rate of change remains rather glacial. In my lifetime for instance I well might not see the sort of change that I hoped for when I was a 25-year-old post graduate student.”
Senior Professor Julie Robyn Steele was awarded an AM for significant service to science in the field of biomechanics, to higher education, and to professional associations.
She is the founder and director of UOW’s renowned Biomechanics Research Laboratory, and Breast Research Australia, which focuses on reducing breast discomfort so all women can participate in sport and physical activity.
“I feel absolutely honoured, and hope that this award can in some small way help raise the profile of the achievements of women in non-traditional fields, such as biomechanics, as a way to encourage girls to pursue their passion in areas outside the norm,” Prof Steele said.
“I hope it also highlights that women who have based their whole careers in Wollongong can aspire to lead international organisations in these non-traditional fields, and really make an impact globally.”
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Professor Judy Agnes Raper was awarded an AM for significant service to higher education though a range of roles, and to engineering.
Now based in London, Prof Raper said she was delighted to be selected and proud that the spotlight would be placed on the importance on research.
“I am truly honoured and grateful that the work I have done in encouraging UOW research to be the best it can be is recognised,” she said.