One of Australia’s most promising tech entrepreneurs joins a stellar cohort partaking in this year’s Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Program, which starts in Melbourne this week.
After a successful Victorian pilot in 2019, the Brandon BioCatalyst-managed WILD Program ran as a nation-wide program in 2022 with $1 million in funding from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women. Its mandate is to see more women working in STEM fields obtain C-suite and Board-level roles.
The WILD Program consists of three parts: completing nationally recognised AICD Company Director’s Course, an executive leadership retreat and participation in board meetings for a STEM-related company, to gain mentorship and firsthand experience working in an executive setting.
“I’ve spent many years being the only woman in the room,” says Christine Higgins, a tech entrepreneur and successful applicant to this year’s WILD Program. “In all my computer science classes there was always one woman to ten men. When you are the only woman in the room, you tend to question whether you belong.”
Higgins is the co-founder and lead engineer of software start-up Accelo, an all-in-one software system for service businesses. Established in Wollongong in 2009, Accelo has since expanded with offices across Australia and the United States and more than 100 employees worldwide.
Higgins’ motivation to participate in the program comes from her desire to see more women in high-level positions in STEM industries.
“I am passionate about showing women that they do belong in STEM, particularly in the tech field. I want women to look at our industry and see women in visible, high-level positions so that they know they belong.”
Statistics from the Workplace Gender Equity Agency (WGEA) reveal that while women represent 27 per cent of the STEM workforce, they hold just 8 per cent of CEO roles, less than the 20 per cent figure across the broader economy.
Jane Schuller, Non-executive Director of Orthoptics Australia and Vision 2020 Australia and graduate of the WILD 2019 pilot says that the disparity is still apparent in the health sector.
“On average, Australia’s health workforce is predominantly female, and women are underrepresented in senior leadership positions in proportion to their professional workforce demographics. I have seen a shift in the last few years, more women are being promoted into senior roles, but there is still a clear disparity at the highest levels. There are so many smart, capable women working in health and we need to see continued commitment to ensure there is measurable improvement in gender equity.”
Lucid Consulting Ltd was a keen supporter of WILD’s 2022 Program, inviting a participant on as a board observer. Founder and board member of Lucid, Bruce Hatwell, says that the company’s participation was motivated by a desire to see more women in the engineering industry.
“We want to attract more women to our business, and we know that people with the right skills on our board, including women, is a powerful way to lead from the top.”
Hatwell continues, “At the end of the program, our board participant was requested to participate in a debriefing of her thoughts around the meeting, which contained elements of client interface, cultural and people considerations. Our entire board listened and participated intently in the entire review. Her insights were extremely valuable, and we are very grateful for the fresh perspective the experience has given us.”
Building on the success of prior cohorts, the program is expanding its offering after securing $1 million additional investment from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources (DISR). The new WILD Advance program will provide a further 50 women with an extended one-year board observership experience.
WILD Advance is designed to accelerate leadership pathways towards securing a senior governance role for STEM women who have often already completed their GAICD qualifications. A pilot of the program is underway with six participants, and the $1 million in funding from DISR enables an expansion that will afford 50 women from across the country the opportunity to participate in the program.
Both the original WILD Program and Advance were developed by WILD Women founders Dr Nadine Brew (Portfolio Manager, Brandon Capital), Dr Lauren Giorgio (Chief Operating Officer, GPN Vaccines) and Dr Udani Reets (Director Partnerships, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre).
“We are welcoming a brilliant cohort of women to participate in our third year of the WILD Program and in our WILD Advance pilot,” says Dr Nadine Brew. “There have been some encouraging results from previous years, with 45 percent of the 2022 cohort already achieving career promotions and new roles. We are excited to see how the addition of WILD Advance will further our mission of seeing more women in senior executive positions within STEM.”
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About WILD Women
WILD Women is a social enterprise developing programs that support women in STEM to reach the most senior levels of their chosen fields. It was co-founded by three PhD-qualified women with a vision of empowering and equipping the STEM sector to overcome gender disparity in leadership by 2040. With the guidance of a high-profile advisory group, WILD Women runs the WILD and WILD Advance programs providing women in STEM with the qualifications, skills, confidence, networks and opportunities needed to attain senior leadership and board positions.
For more information about WILD, visit www.wildforstem.com
About Brandon BioCatalyst and Brandon Capital
Brandon Capital is a venture capital firm that manages Brandon BioCatalyst, Australia and New Zealand’s largest life science investment collaboration & fund. Brandon BioCatalyst is a unique collaboration between major Australian superannuation funds, the Australian and New Zealand governments, Australian state governments and more than 50 leading medical research institutes and research hospitals.
Brandon BioCatalyst supports the development and commercialisation of early-stage biomedical discoveries associated with member research organisations, providing both capital and expertise to guide the successful development of new therapies. Brandon BioCatalyst has supported more than 50 start-up companies to date, most of which were founded by Brandon BioCatalyst.
For more information about Brandon BioCatalyst visit: www.brandonbiocatalyst.com
For more information about Brandon Capital visit: www.brandoncapital.vc