Anne Koopmann-Schmidt

Strengths in diversity

Founder, Lead Like You; Master of Engineering (Mechanical), RWTH Aachen University (Germany)

Diversity in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) field, as well as in STEM leadership, is an ongoing challenge that relates directly to engineers’ work.

That is why engineer Anne Koopmann-Schmidt, who has been Head of Quality Australia for Bombardier and Lecturer for the University of Melbourne’s Innovation Practice Program, created Strengths in Diversity, a program that fosters a diverse culture in organisations by focusing on talent and shifting focus away from characteristics such as age, gender and cultural background.

“I stepped out of my corporate role to create a lasting impact in engineering with our leaders,” says Koopmann-Schmidt.

“I founded my amazing organisation to support emerging leaders in finding their unique leadership identity, drive diversity and prepare the next generation of leaders in STEM.”

“I stepped out of my corporate role to create a lasting impact in engineering with our leaders.”

Koopmann-Schmidt believes that diversity in STEM means cultivating talent and promoting the full inclusion of excellence across the entire spectrum of society. Her vision is to drive team performance and innovation through an appreciation of the power of diversity.

“What makes my approach innovative is the combination of a team-strengths workshop with Lego as a facilitation tool,” she says.

“Lego sparks curiosity and engagement and helps every participant to open up and build trust with their team.”

The program uses Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment as a way of providing participants with a deep understanding of their natural talents and then develops individualised strategies for each team member based on their strengths profiles.

Koopmann-Schmidt incorporated Lego as a facilitation tool after finding that many people involved in the program were not comfortable with being vulnerable in a traditional training environment.

“My innovation lies in the combination of these tools, coupled with my leadership experience, which creates a powerful development program customised for the STEM industry,” she says.

“The vision with this program is to change the way we develop our leaders and teams. I want to drive diversity by helping individuals learn to appreciate the strengths of others and foster a diverse culture that drives innovation.”

Judges’ comments:

“This is an innovative approach to supporting diversity in the engineering workplace, with the greatest challenges overcome being psychological ones. Removing barriers to broadening the participation of all types of people in engineering will have benefits for the profession and for the community, as diverse thinking leads to robust solutions.”

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