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International Women's Day: Creating world of opportunity

Posted: 5am 07 Mar 2022

A lack of female role models in her own formative years is the driving force behind Fiona Holmstrom’s desire to show young women the opportunities awaiting them are limited only by their imaginations.

The Samford mum of three and co-founder of a world-leading STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education program was thrilled to be named the inaugural Businesswoman of the Year at last year’s Moreton Bay Region Business Excellence and Innovation Awards.

At the time, she said she hoped the award would give her a platform to inspire change and encourage girls to explore careers in STEM.

“I am delighted to accept this on behalf of all of the girls who, like me, were told computers aren’t for girls, technology’s not for girls, STEM is not for girls,” she said in her acceptance speech in November.

“I’m here to tell you it is, and it is the way of the future.”

Fiona says the public recognition that has come a with series of awards in the past few years has enabled her to shine a light on the business (STEM Punks) she co-founded with husband Michael and influence the choices girls make – not just in Australia, but globally.

“I didn’t have role models growing up, and it’s one thing I am really passionate about, role models for young girls,” she says.

“I knew that wasn’t right and having my own daughter has made me go ‘hang on a second, she can’t go through what I went through’,” Fiona explains.

“It’s about making people aware and collectively coming together to make changes – any change is good change when it comes to getting girls involved in STEM.”

Global influence

Fiona is particularly proud that STEM Punks supports a girls’ school in Ghana.

“Over there it’s really difficult for girls to get an education, let alone in STEM.

“Without support and awareness those girls would not have that chance and that goes for girls here, too.

“We want to ensure equity and equality for everyone.”

That philosophy carries through in STEM Punks’ communications – including magazine Future Learning, which feature images and articles showcasing ethnic and gender diversity in STEM.

“One woman wrote to me and said her daughter in Western Sydney saw someone in our magazine who looked like her – they were wearing a hijab,” Fiona says.

“That goes back to the idea of role models – girls need to see it so they can believe it, more so than boys.

“It’s about relevance, making something relevant and making something fun that’s not one size fits all.”

Fiona says relevance extends to opening children’s eyes to the diverse careers that connect with STEM.

“STEM encompasses so many fields – it’s more of a mindset and about problem solving.

“It has applications in science as well as the arts.

“It’s about creative communication, critical thinking, problem solving, empathy and compassion.”

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