13 January 2023.
The Australian High Commission in Apia marked ‘Women and Girls in STEM Day’ by highlighting the achievements and contributions of Samoan women in STEM.
With only 28% of the global STEM workforce comprised of women, the Australian High Commission says that Samoa far surpasses these statistics, with a high number of Samoan women involved in the fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) locally.
Two such Samoan trailblazers who are breaking down barriers in what are normally male-dominated fields are Australia Awards alumni Saouila Tolovaa and Sheena Uputaua Lesa.
Saouila Tolovaa, a research scientist at the Scientific Research Organization of Samoa (SROS), shares her journey into STEM. “Being a scientist doesn't mean you always need to have the right answer,” says Tolovaa. “Challenge what is already out there and prove what is not, that’s what I believe makes a good scientist.”
Sheena Uputaua Lesa, the Chief Information Technology Officer at the Samoa National Provident Fund, was inspired by her computer teacher in Samoa College to pursue a career in software engineering. “When my computer teacher in Samoa College said that a computer only understands 0 and 1, I was curious to know why not 5, 6, or 8,” says Lesa. “This sparked my interest in the world of technology.”
Despite being the only girl in her class of 2013, Lesa says it only motivated her to succeed. “It just made me want to push further and prove that gender has nothing to do with achieving your own goals.”
Tolovaa encourages young girls to pursue careers in STEM, saying, “Expect frustration, challenge, and failure in this field, but don't give up once you fail. It just means you're one step ahead in reaching that cutting-edge conclusion.”
Lesa advises those wanting to pursue a career in STEM to "set realistic goals – time is your most valuable asset. Never lose sight of it, always embrace and learn from your failures."
The Australian High Commission says Australia is focused on supporting Samoa’s priorities, which include supporting women in STEM fields, through its Australia Awards scholarships.
The scholarship program offers students opportunities to further their education and make meaningful contributions to their families and nation.
Applications for the 2024 Australia Awards Program are now open. For more information or to apply, visit www.dfat.gov.au.