On Monday 11 February 2019, PNG and Australia joined the world in celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Rather than just celebrate, both countries must continue to collaborate and inspire more women and girls to study and work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Countries worldwide are using STEM education to drive socio-economic development and promote equality. STEM classes help young people develop enquiring minds, by supporting students to develop research, critical thinking and problem-solving skills rather than just absorb information.

As global challenges grow in scale and complexity, it’s increasingly important to nurture a strong, capable and creative workforce that brings diverse perspectives to problem-solving, knowledge building and solution-seeking. Greater STEM skills bring these perspectives, and innovation in STEM leads to new products and processes that build the economy.

Australia Awards scholar Pamela Toliman, a recipient of the Allison Sudradjat prize in 2016, has been undertaking a PhD in health science at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales. Her PhD is centred on cervical cancer screening algorithms for women in PNG. Whilst completing her studies she is also an active member of the Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative Steering Committee and takes time out to mentor younger female researchers. These are the very women in STEM that the PNG-Australia partnership nurtures and develops.

The Australian Government is eager for more collaboration with PNG to create more opportunities for women in STEM. Australia has already begun implementing innovations in STEM based learning as part of its standard curriculum and hopes to support PNG’s move towards a similar goal. As both nations work together, effective methods can be developed utilizing STEM for sustainable socio-economic development whilst actively promoting equality for women and girls in STEM and the general workforce.