Dream Big Australia
Empowering women to dream and succeed in STEAM careers

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SUMMARY

Dream Big Australia is a not-for-profit committed to advancing women’s development in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM).  

As a woman from regional Queensland, the only female graduate in her university cohort, and a practitioner in the civil engineering industry, Jessica personally experienced the barriers faced by women in significantly male dominated industries. Her goal was to work towards making workplaces more inclusive for aspiring women by encouraging organisations to embrace diversity practices, commit to addressing gender imbalances, while better supporting women.  

The resilience built from these experiences empowered Jessica to establish the STEAM Ahead Program, an Australia-wide development program which supports and better prepares women to be more skilled, confident, and qualified when entering the workplace. By fostering women’s development at the launch-pad of their careers, she enables them to connect with industry mentors, enhance their capabilities, elevate their potential prior to graduation, and access employment opportunities.

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

Advancing women's development is beneficial to all members of society. This is why we work towards gender equality in STEAM, as addressing the disadvantages experienced by women in the fields of STEAM is beneficial to the whole community.

As a not-for-profit, Jessica and the Dream Big team has dedicated the last seven years to being a leader in engaging and empowering young women from high school to industry. We combine our wealth of cross-industry experience as leaders and change-makers in our fields with our shared commitment to diversity to prepare women for success in STEAM careers.

For all emerging women: We advance women's development by providing career-launching programs and promotions for organisations invested in fostering diversity in sustainable talent pipelines. We believe this will provide stronger outcomes for organisations, societies, and economies. Dream Big Australia has made a conscious choice to make our program free for all participants so that women who identify as marginalised, and/or are from regional, or low socio-economic backgrounds are not financially challenged in accessing quality education.

Our STEAM Ahead Program content tackles the challenges associated with engagement, progression, and retention of female talent in the industry through career development resources, mentoring, coaching, and networking events. The development experience is delivered through a hybrid model – online and in-person. This means Dream Big Australia can deliver an inclusive and engaging program where emerging female leaders can dial in with mobile, connect in-person, or join as an online audience member to stay connected wherever they are in Australia. We achieve this through a mixture of video conferencing tools and a self-paced online learning platform that is highly interactive and engaging.

Refining our offering after a successful Queensland-wide program in 2021, Dream Big Australia's STEAM Ahead program is broadening its reach to support women studying all over Australia. Our target for the 2022 program is to double our intake from 50 participants to 100 across all of Australia's states and territories.

The 2021 STEAM Ahead program achieved great results in empowering Queensland women in their careers, with 53 program participants accessing free professional development, mentoring, and networking opportunities; 6 gaining interviews with employers of choice, and 2 gaining employment across different roles at Energy Queensland and Aginic.

The program attracts women with demonstrated potential who are seeking to fast-track their development and transition from study to career so that they enter the industry as confident, self-directed, and well-rounded professionals. Our program cohort includes participants from a wide range of study areas, which leads to participants having a more diverse and inclusive learning experience. We are particularly proud that our program cohort included 26.4% women who grew up in rural, remote, or regional areas and 2% who were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, as we are passionate about diversity.

Applications are open to university students who identify as women or non-binary completing a STEAM Bachelor’s degree (in their 2nd year or above) with a Credit Average or equivalent. With diversity and inclusion key to our success, we particularly encourage applications from female candidates who identify as Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander; rural, regional, or remote location; migrant or refugee; low socio-economic background; and/or who live with a disability. 

Our 2022 program targets participants studying STEAM from all over Australia, however, we continue to have a strong representation from Queensland women, including remote and regional women. Out of the 118 participants selected for the program, 31 reside in Queensland, spread across educational institutions Griffith, QUT, UQ, and USQ. They come from diverse fields, including software, engineering, IT, architecture, science, Urban and regional planning, and design.

We are proud of the impact that we have had on previous students, as they express receiving a great deal of benefit, not only professionally, but also personally, from having taken part in the STEAM Ahead program. Testimonials from two of our 2021 cohort can be found on our website here: www.dreambigaustralia.org/our-program

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)

Having dedicated over 8 years to supporting women’s careers in non-traditional / STEM industries, I believe I am a strong role model for women in Queensland because of my commitment and passion to making a difference for the next generation of leaders. 

I founded Dream Big Australia in 2014 when I realised the number of women enrolled in my engineering courses were rapidly declining. At this time, I was a second-year Civil Engineering university student. I loved the course content and wondered why there weren’t more opportunities to showcase the exciting reality of STEM fields in the broader community.

As a woman from regional Queensland, the only female graduate in my university cohort, and a practitioner in the civil engineering industry, I personally experienced the barriers faced by women in significantly male dominated industries. My eyes were opened when I dealt with sexual assault and discrimination. The impact of dealing with inappropriate behaviours helped me understand how limited the opportunities for were women to speak out, and importantly, how this undermined women’s educational and professional success. 

I reflected on General Morrison’s principle “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”. My decision was not to simply oppose these behaviours, but to act to address them. My goal was to work towards making male dominated industries more inclusive for aspiring women by encouraging organisations to embrace diversity practices, commit to addressing gender imbalances, while better supporting women pursuing careers in STEM industries. 

The resilience I built from these experiences empowered me to establish the Not-For-Profit organisation and charity, Dream Big Australia. Through the STEAM Ahead Program, I work with my leadership team to tackle the challenges of gender diversity in masculine industries, thus supporting women’s access to positive role models and career pathway opportunities. 

Outside my role of Managing Director of Dream Big Australia, I wear a few hats: I’m an MBA candidate, diversity champion, chartered civil engineer, and Project Manager at Sunwater. As a diversity champion, I frequently guest speak at industry organisations about the importance of diversity in the workplace, raise awareness of women’s career development challenges, and what leaders can do to foster more inclusive environments for their employees. 

In my professional role, I develop infrastructure strategies and assess pipelines of investment over the next 20 years for Sunwater and the Department of Regional Development Manufacturing and Water. By being responsible for managing long-term bulk water infrastructure investment strategies, I play an influential role in advancing the sustainable development and utilisation of water resources throughout Queensland. An example of where I have generated economic benefits with community stakeholders is in the Bundaberg, Burnett, and Lower Mary region. I have collaboratively progressed business cases, viable water infrastructure designs, and amendments to policy so that Queensland achieves greater water prosperity. 

I’m a big believer in fostering diversity, as I believe this creates environments where everyone can thrive and be empowered to dream and succeed. I am driven to encourage and bring together women, develop their capabilities and confidence, and provide them with employment opportunities for successful careers. Over the years of my involvement in diversity in STEM activities I have forged greater links between Queensland schools, universities, and industries by collaborating with students, educators, industry representatives, institutions, organisations, and government departments to advance women’s economic development and their confidence in pursuing STEM careers.

ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

2022:

  • STEAM Ahead Program
    • Promotion activities: reached out to 90 contacts across Queensland university staff and societies to offer our free career development program for women studying STEAM; promoted further career enrichment and employment opportunities to our database of 110+ STEAM Ahead program participants via email and social media
    • Engagement activities: to date, we have engaged with up to 70+ women studying STEAM at a time via interactive webinars focused on developing career goals, preparing resumes, and speaking with confidence. A further 7 weeks of program content is planned for the coming period, also including further sessions on preparing for interviews, mentoring sessions, an employment showcase, and an Industry Presentation and Networking Event to connect women with employment opportunities.

2021:

  • STEAM Ahead Program: 
    • Promotion activities: we reached out to over 90 contacts across Queensland university staff and societies to offer our free career development program for women studying STEAM; promoted further career enrichment and employment opportunities to our database of 50+ Queensland-based STEAM Ahead program participants via email and social media
    • Engagement activities:
    • similar to our activities planned for 2022, in 2021 we offered out 9 week free development and networking program to a cohort of 53 high potential, female university students studying STEAM degrees, from diverse backgrounds including 2% Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and 30% from a regional area.


2020: 

  • STEAM Ahead Podcast - recorded and released over 20 career chat episodes with industry leaders in STEAM. Through collaborations with diverse volunteers, I initiated the idea of providing online career activities and podcasts to female students during COVID-19. As our credibility was previously based on physical events, I believe this innovative transition to online offerings secured us with long-term growth opportunities and enabled our customers to have greater connection to our brand as our service pivot demonstrated our commitment to enhancing community connection. By offering online career pathway resources and support to students, whose exposure to career guidance was drastically affected by new virtual learning environments, we established a trusted brand and demonstrated our ability navigate complexity.
  • Virtual Career Chats (online) for students across Queensland during COVID-19 pandemic

2019:

  • 12-week work experience and mentoring program, focused on university students in STEAM degrees, University of Queensland, Brisbane
  • Australia's first STEAM Day, focussed on year 10-12 students, University of Queensland, Brisbane

2018:

  • Dream Big Event with Energy Queensland, focussed on year 10-12 students, Eagle Farm Energy House
  • Dream Big Event, focussed on year 10-12 students, CQUniversity Rockhampton

2017:

  • Dream Big Event, focussed on year 10-12 QLD female school students, held in Brisbane, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Mackay and Cairns
  • Women in STEM Breakfast, focussed on year 9 students, CQUniversity Cairns Campus

2016:

  • Dream Big Event, focussed on year 10-12 students, held at CQUniversity Rockhampton, Gladstone, Gladstone, Bundaberg and Mackay campuses

2015:

  • Dream Big Event, focussed on year 10-12 students, CQUniversity Rockhampton


You can read more about the impact here: https://www.dreambigaustralia.org/our-impact My industry-based engagement includes:

  • Speaker at Ausenco’s International Women's Day event (2022)
  • Speaker at HLB Mann Judd’s International Women's Day event (2022)
  • Speaker at L3Harris’s International Engineering Week (2022)
  • Speaker at the State’s Women in Science Event (2022)
  • Speaker at Sunwater’s International Women's Day, Sunwater (2021)
  • Speaker at Sunwater’s International Women's Day (2020)
  • Speaker at the World Engineers Convention, Topic: Next generation of STEAM leaders (2019)
  • Speaker at the Women in Engineering and IT Symposium, Topic: Diversity & Inclusion (2019)
  • Profiled in Engineers Australia's '100 engineers making a difference' 100 year Centenary Features (2019)
  • Panellist at the Department of State Development Women in Manufacturing Breakfast (2019)
  • Speaker, QUT Mathematical Sciences Career Night (2018)
  • Volunteer, Women of the World Festival (2018)
  • Volunteer, CQUniversity Humanitarian Engineering Study Program with United Nations in Vietnam (2017)
  • Speaker at the Institute of Public Works Australasia Conference, Topic: Women in Engineering (2017)
  • Speaker at the CQUniversity Leadership Conference, Topic: Empowering others (2016)
  • Speaker, Rio Tinto's Women in Science Forum (2016)
  • Judge and Speaker, CQUniversity Robotics Competition (2013)
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