The Sri Lankan–born researcher, lecturer and women’s advocate has already received several accolades for the organisation she established to counter the frustrations she faced when she first came to Australia to do a PhD in a male-dominated field of engineering and science.
STEM Sisters created to address sector biases
As a solution to the closed doors and biases Dr Fernando encountered, she launched STEM Sisters in late 2017 to support, empower and celebrate female students aspiring to become researchers, engineers or scientists in STEM fields – especially women of colour.
“My exploration of the Australian STEM sector convinced me that STEM diversity and inclusion efforts for women were primarily focused on gender, but needed an intersectional approach,” she said.
“All women have a glass ceiling to break through in this sector, but we, as women of colour, experience a concrete or bamboo ceiling.”
Since its launch, the organisation has grown remarkably with key activities that include mentoring and networking.
It received three major awards in 2022, including:
Career comics will inspire next generation
While celebrating the achievements of STEM Sisters, Dr Fernando acknowledges there is much work left to do.
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science heightens the visibility of girls and women in STEM and the opportunities it can provide, but the reality is that women scientists and researchers continue to face many challenges, she said.