Inspiring the next generation of female researchers

The Women's researchers Michaela Sacco, Dr Genia Rozen, Dr Stacey Peart and Brooke Backman spoke about the joys of working in medical research
9 February 2024 | Events | Research and clinical trials | Staff

The Women’s strives to be a workplace where women can thrive – and use their scientific skills to improve the health of others.

Our hospital runs the Meet a Scientist virtual event series to showcase career opportunities and pathways for young women in science and to celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Our 2024 Meet A Scientist event was held on Friday 9 February, and hundreds of secondary school students from across Victoria attended.

Events like these are still needed

A 2023 Government report (reported by Women's Agenda) revealed that females only represent 15 per cent of the male-dominated STEM-qualified workforce in Australia. This inequality starts in high school.

A recent study from Curtin University (reported by SBS) showed that only one female scientist is mentioned in Australian high school science curricula, whereas 150 male scientists are mentioned. Not even Nobel Prize laureate Marie Curie made the cut.

The Women’s CEO Professor Sue Matthews is keen to inspire students to pursue a career in science, which offers some of the most rewarding experiences and a huge range of opportunities, both in Australia and overseas.

And we are proud to be a female-led organisation, with mostly females across our workforce and leadership.

“If you are curious and always ask ‘why’; or if you enjoy collaborating in a team; or if you enjoy the challenge of thinking creatively to solve problems; then a career in STEM could be for you,” Prof Matthews said.

She also pointed out that women bring unique perspectives to research and scientific conversation.

“When it comes to medicine and research, gender equity is incredibly important. For example, many new medications are still only tested on men – even though it is well established that women metabolise medication differently to men.

"So, the more voices, experiences and perspectives we have in medical research, the better.”

Meeting our scientists

Four of the Women’s female researchers shared how they found their way into a medical research career.

The youngest presenter was Michaela Sacco, who is a PhD student working on fertility issues connected with the lining of the uterus and how this impacts embryo implantation.

Michaela fell in love with lab work during university but says it took a moment until she found her niche.

“When I was younger, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was through trial and error that I discovered infertility research was my passion,” Ms Sacco said.

“I hope by sharing my story through Meet a Scientist, young women can see that their life doesn't need to follow a specific plan to be successful; failure is a chance to learn and grow.”

This notion was shared by fellow presenter Dr Genia Rozen, who is investigating fertility preservation options after cancer.

While her clinical work with patients is Dr Rozen’s major focus, her restless mind keeps wondering how to do things differently and improve the care we provide.

“Research provides the satisfaction of learning new things, making a meaningful impact, however small,” Dr Rozen said.

She would have loved attending events like Meet a Scientist during her school years.

“It would have given me a glimpse into the actual lives of women in science, showing me how they balance their professional and personal lives, the time it took to reach their goals, and the challenges they faced along the way," Dr Rozen said.

"Understanding not just their successes but also their struggles would have been enlightening."

Brooke Backman shared what it’s like to oversee the day-to-day running of endometriosis research undertaken at the Women’s.

Ms Backman grew up in a small country town and was the only sibling in her family to go to university.

“I actually had to travel two hours to the nearest campus to study, so it was a big decision for me,” she said.

Today, she still enjoys the travelling; her research projects have taken her to many international conferences and work experiences.

She is particularly proud of her time spent working at the World Health Organization.

The final presenter of the day was Dr Stacey Peart, who is a neonatologist at the Women’s. Dr Peart is specialised in the care of preterm babies.

Her research wants to improve outcomes for newborns experiencing breathing difficulties.

Dr Peart’s advice for anyone considering a career in science: 

"Back yourself, and try not to cross anything off your list because it seems too hard – or to settle for something that isn’t your passion or your dream because it’s the safe option.

“Put in the work, trust the process, and don’t be afraid of failing.”

If your school is interested in accessing a recording of Meet a Scientist 2024, or registering for next year’s event, email: