Space pioneers, software engineers and prominent roboticists all made the 2019 Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence list.
Software engineer and Girls’ Programming Network Executive Director Renee Noble is among the STEM movers and shakers recognised in this year’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) 100 Women of Influence Awards list.
Noble, who is also a software engineer at CSIRO’s Data61 and e-learning company Grok Learning, was recognised as a finalist in the Young Leaders category.
The Girls’ Programming Network (GPN) offers free workshops across Australia, and has inspired thousands of female primary and high school students to embrace coding. It was founded by Superstars of STEM alumnus Dr Nicky Ringland, who was recognised in last year’s 100 Women of Influence list.
Speaking at the PyCon AU Conference last year, Noble said GPN workshop participants ranged from complete beginners to students with several years of coding under their belts.
To remove barriers to girls participating in coding, there are no prerequisites or levels for entry, and the emphasis is on fun.
“Our idea of the day is to give them an authentic programming experience,” she explained.
Noble added that to accommodate students at different levels, the workshops use coding projects that can dynamically change in difficulty to challenge all students, while giving everyone a sense of accomplishment.
In the Global Category, the AFR list recognised Silicon Valley Robotics Managing Director Andra Keay – another champion of diversity in the STEM sector. Keay founded the professional Women in Robotics community as well as the international robotics startup competition Robot Launch.
Multi-skilled change-makers and space pioneers
In their analysis, the AFR said the 2019 list featured women who were champions of reinvention with broad skill sets that they leveraged to create change. Noble fits this description well. During her undergraduate studies at the University of Sydney, she completed a double degree in engineering and science, majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering as well as computer science and chemistry.
Another multi-skilled engineer recognised by AFR as a key influencer is Australian Space Agency (ASA) Executive Director Anntonette Dailey. Dailey, a finalist in the Public Policy category, has a degree in environmental engineering and a career spanning several sectors including the water industry and environmental consulting. Before joining the ASA, Dailey managed the Bureau of Meteorology.
Dailey is one of three space sector representatives featured in this year’s list. She joins Business and Entrepreneur category finalist Carley Scott, CEO of Equatorial Launch Australia, which has been tapped to establish a launch site for NASA sounding rockets in the Northern Territory next year.
The third space sector influencer is Innovation category finalist Professor Anna Moore, Director of the Australian National University Institute for Space (InSpace). Moore has a background in spacecraft design, satellite communications, astronomy and astrophysics, and works at the bleeding edge of space research.
InSpace has recently announced a 10-year laser communications program, which will include: the establishment of the first Australian optical ground station; a joint quantum satellite mission with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR); and the development of quantum-key distribution protocols for secure encryption, which will allow data transmission during the day as well as at night.
According to Moore, Australia is in an enviable position in the new space economy.
“With careful cultivation and collaboration under the auspices of a well-funded and focused space agency, the opportunities are there, the talent is here, and the future is bright,” she said.