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Moreton Bay Region businesses shine at technology awards

Posted: 5am 22 Oct 2021

Samford Village resident and STEM Punks director Fiona Holmstrom has won the prestigious Sue Wickenden Excellence in STEM award at the Women in Technology Awards.

STEM Punks was one of two Moreton Bay Region businesses recognised at the WiT Awards - The Super Retail Group at Strathpine won the Employer Choice Corporate Award.

The Super Retail Group is behind brands such as Rebel, BCF and Supercheap Auto.

Fiona’s win recognises her mission to make Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education gender-inclusive and available throughout Australia.

She started the world-leading STEM education program for students and teachers in primary and secondary schools in her garage in 2017.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the business to pivot and gave STEM Punks the opportunity to take its program to the world.

When COVID emerged, the business was operating face-to-face in schools.

“As an early STEM career professional, I’ve achieved some incredible things over the last four years, but particularly the transition of the business from a face-to-face business model to an online model during COVID,” Fiona says.

“When COVID hit, eight months of forecast revenue disappeared overnight.”

Used to pivoting to keep pace with the ever-changing world of technology, Fiona says the STEM Punks team rose to the challenge.

“We transferred all of our content online and started doing livestreams. We had to convert teachers to TV presenters,” she explains.

“We tapped into a market we hadn’t explored before and now we’re connected globally.”

Genesis of a business

After a career in the corporate world, Fiona had children and decided to leave her working life behind.

Becoming a mum prompted her to search for leading education systems to suit her own children and their development.

“From Scandinavia to the Middle East to North America and everywhere in between, I found that STEM kept coming up in curriculums everywhere - everywhere except Australia,” she says.

“So, I set about to change that, and STEM Punks was born.

“Initially what started as coding classes for local kids in my garage has now become a global business.

“I also used my early experience of not being given a computer - because it was ‘a boy thing’ - to spur on my personal mission to ensure more girls enter STEM and don't have to suffer the same gender bias I did,” she says.

“My philosophy is to encourage inclusivity and equity in education.”

Australia’s leading technology industry association night of nights recognises the talents and achievements of women working in all fields of STEM and the contributions they make to research, policy, economic and social development across a range of categories.

WiT President Bec Langdon congratulated all of the winners and says she hopes this year’s theme ‘What We Celebrate, Grows’ will leave a lasting impact for generations to come.

"Many women are doing amazing work and these awards are about giving them the recognition they deserve, building support for their work, and inspiring the next generation of leaders by showing what is possible,” Bec says.

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