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Women in Science Victor Chang Institute

Celebrating
women in science

"My advice to young women in science"

What's it like to be a woman in science? Here, Dr Anita Ayer explains why she chose a career in STEM, and her top tips for getting ahead in research. 


Anita, tell us a bit about yourself?

I worked at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute from February 2013 until October 2020 in the Vascular Biology Laboratory. I’ve always wanted to be a scientist and discover things about the world so this is my dream job!

In your opinion, what’s the single biggest change that needs to happen in order to encourage more women to pursue careers in science?

We need to have more women at the top levels of STEM. It’s incredibly important that young woman are exposed to a diverse range of females who have succeeded in science and can have these as role models. You need to be able to see yourself in the area you want to work in. We need to get across the message that is possible to be woman AND have a family (if you so chose) AND have a successful career in STEM.

What led you to choose a career in STEM? 

My mum is a scientist and I remember going to work with her and being given little ‘jobs’ around the lab and loving every minute. As I grew up I realised that contributing to science and medical research was how I wanted to change the world.  I studied Science and Arts at University and then went on to complete my PhD before starting to work at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. Through this I was very fortunate to have some excellent mentors, worked with world-class scientists, travel, make friends and of course do some fun and exciting science!

What's your advice to young women wanting to get into science? 

1. Work hard and be enthusiastic and curious!

2. Be open to possibilities: The science that we study in 5 or 10 years may not even exists now. Be open to the changing world we live in, and realize there is no one right way. Everyone has a different path to get to where they need to be.

3. Ask lots and lots and lots of questions

4. Push boundaries: Challenge the world you live in. I cannot stress this enough! Challenge ideas, challenge the status quo, challenge what we take for granted. This is how big changes are made.

5. Be fearless – making big decisions and asking questions and pushing boundaries can be really scary. But you have to be fearless! When I left high school I was told that all the really important things we do in life will also be the scariest, and I’ve found this to be true. But you have to accept the challenge and realize that you can do it.

6. Embrace the amazing women around you. Because together we are stronger.