Our
Story

Welcome to iSTEM Co., – where diversity meets innovation in the world of STEM!

Our story is one of resilience, determination, and a commitment to breaking down barriers for ALL women including women from diverse backgrounds in Australia’s STEM sector.

Our story is one of resilience, determination, and a commitment to breaking down barriers for ALL women including women from diverse backgrounds in Australia’s STEM sector.

When Dr. Morley Muse first arrived in Australia through a skilled migration program for engineers, she anticipated a smooth transition into the workforce. Armed with a double bachelor’s in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and a master’s in Sustainable Power Engineering from esteemed UK universities, her qualifications were exemplary.

However, despite her expertise, Dr. Muse encountered difficulties securing employment. She faced bias from employers, compounded by limitations imposed by her work visa. Some employers insisted on permanent residence visa holders, even though she possessed a skilled work visa with full rights to work.

In response to these challenges, Dr. Muse pursued a PhD in Australia to bridge the gap and enhance her employability. The doctoral journey had a profound impact, steering her focus towards the gender disparity within the field. Observing a significant dropout rate among female engineering students, particularly by the second year, she was determined to address the issue. This determination led to the establishment of a university club, WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), providing support specifically for women pursuing STEM disciplines.

Her commitment extended beyond university walls when she recognised the broader scope of the problem across Australia. Through industry connections and her own experiences, Dr. Muse noted that conversations about equity in STEM primarily focused on gender, neglecting intersectionality factors such as ethnicity, disability, and sexuality. This realisation prompted her to resign from her job and launch iSTEM Co., a company dedicated to assisting women in STEM, including those from diverse and multicultural backgrounds gain employment.

In her quest for a like-minded partner, Dr Muse found Dr Ruwangi Fernando, the founder of STEM Sisters, a not-for-profit advocacy group addressing systemic barriers hindering women of colour in STEM fields. Dr. Fernando, a Data Scientist and AI expert, shared a similar commitment to challenging the biases women face, particularly those compounded by race and ethnicity. STEM Sisters aimed to bring about change in this regard. However, Dr Fernando also observed that the employment and retention of women in STEM remained a persistent problem.

Together, Dr Muse and Dr Fernando joined forces to establish iSTEM, an organisation dedicated to driving change in the STEM landscape and fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment for all women, including those facing intersectional challenges.

Why
iSTEM Co.

iSTEM Co. was established in response to the stark gender disparities in the STEM workforce, as highlighted in reports such as “Australia’s STEM Workforce Report by the Office of the Chief Scientist (2020).” The data reveals that only 29% of women are part of the STEM labour force, with 56% of University-qualified females born overseas experiencing significantly higher unemployment rates. Disturbingly, the 2022 STEM Equity Monitor indicates a 2% decline in women working in STEM since 2020, emphasising the urgent need for collective attention.

As of 2023, despite women constituting 36% of University enrolments in STEM, only 15% find themselves in STEM-qualified roles. This retention crisis is at odds with the growth of the STEM workforce by 300,000 over the past decade. The prevailing gender bias, compounded by ethnic and racial biases in STEM fields, contributes significantly to these challenges. However, amid these obstacles, there are opportunities, as Australia aims to add 1.3 million tech professionals by 2030, creating a heightened demand for STEM careers.

Recognising the economic imperative of diversity, iSTEM Co., a research, consulting, and talent-sourcing company, was founded to empower and retain women in STEM. 

This includes First Nations women and those from diverse backgrounds. Awards such as the 2022 VU Accelerator Award and the 2023 Gender Equity Awards validate iSTEM Co.’s commitment to creating a more equitable STEM landscape.

In Australia, women currently hold only 15% of STEM-qualified jobs, facing a pay gap of 17%. The consequence is a significant loss of vital skills and experience due to bias and discrimination, leading to women leaving the industry. This trend is alarming, considering the increasing demand for tech workers by 2030. Besides, it is estimated that 90% of jobs in Australia will need STEM skills by 2025. This shows the urgency required to create employment opportunities so women with STEM qualifications can contribute to the Australian economy, be retained in their roles and become leaders.

Ruwangi and Morley, determined to address this issue, founded the iSTEM group, comprising iSTEM Co. and DEIR. iSTEM Co. operates at multiple levels, assisting women in STEM seeking employment and representation, and collaborating with business leaders, policymakers, and government to change policies encouraging greater diversity in the workforce. As a certified social enterprise, iSTEM Co. provides talent-sourcing services, consulting work, and tailored programs to review and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion policies for various organizations. The company also offers research services to identify opportunities for women in STEM. Through these initiatives, iSTEM Co. aims to make a meaningful difference in promoting diversity and inclusivity in the STEM sector, addressing not only the existing challenges but also creating a more equitable future.

Our
Mission

iSTEM Co is dedicated to diversity and inclusion in STEM fields. Our mission is to connect employers with highly skilled and qualified STEM women from diverse backgrounds while providing a range of services to support their growth and development into senior leadership positions.

Our
 Vision

Companies are pushing for diversity but do not have the space to manage inclusion. At iSTEM Consulting, we want to recruit STEM women into safe workplaces, where they belong, are retained and thrive.

Our vision is to create safe and inclusive recruitment processes that provide opportunities for the employment of all women in STEM, including women from diverse and multicultural backgrounds.

Our motto is simple: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Retention (DEIR). 

austin-distel-fEedoypsW_U-unsplash
Untitled design (36)

Meet our team

1695433600189

Dr. Ruwangi Fernando

Co-founder

Dr. Ruwangi Fernando, distinguished in the IT and AI sectors with a robust academic, industry, and consulting background, holds a Ph.D. from Victoria University and Data61, CSIRO. Her noteworthy accomplishments include being awarded the ‘Changemaker’ accolade by the Australian Academy of Science in 2020 and the ‘Game Changer’ recognition from the Asia Society Australia in 2022. She also serves as the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the Australian Computer Society Victoria, actively advocating for gender equality in STEM. She was honoured with induction into the 2023 Victorian Multicultural Honour Roll.

Dr. Fernando is the innovative founder of STEM Sisters, an organisation dedicated to empowering women of colour in STEM fields. Under her guidance, STEM Sisters has received prestigious accolades such as the Tech Diversity Awards, multiple Victorian Government Excellence Awards, and recognition from the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources.

Furthermore, in her role as co-founder of iSTEM Co. and DEIR, an innovative recruit-tech platform aimed at eliminating recruitment biases against women in STEM, this impactful work has earned the Lift Women Social Impact Award and BURNING HEROES Startup Award. Dr. Fernando’s trailblazing leadership continues to break down barriers, fostering equality and transformative change in the STEM arena.

1690593905367

Dr. Morley Muse

Co-Founder

Dr. Morley Muse, is a Chemical, Environmental and Renewable Energy Engineer and holds multiple board and executive leadership positions in STEM.

Among her various work and accolades are: being a past ambassador for CSIRO’s Innovation Catalyst Global, a board director with Women in STEMM Australia,, an Advisory Group Member of the Elevate: Boosting Women in STEM Program with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and a RISE Expert panel member with Diversity Council Australia (DCA), Settlement Services International (SSI) and Chief Executive Women (CEW). She works closely with Science Technology Australia (STA) and sits on STA’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. She is also a mentor for senior and executive women in STEM with STA on their Superstars of STEM Program. In addition, Dr Muse is a member of the Energy Reference Group with Jemena Energy, providing expert advice on the energy transition, tariffs, and electricity price reset for Jemena Energy and its customers.

She is the winner of the 2022 Women’s Agenda awards for the Emerging Leader in STEM category. She was also named a finalist for the 2022 Victoria University Alumni Awards under the ’Rising Star category’. Her most recent recognition is being a finalist for the 2023 Recalibrate Gender Equity Awards.

As the co-founder of iSTEM Co, a research, consulting, and talent-sourcing business that enables employment for women in STEM, Morley continues to encourage women, including women from diverse backgrounds to further their careers in STEM. iSTEM Co. was nominated as a finalist for the 2022 Women in Digital awards and was a Merit award winner at the 2023 Tech Diversity awards for the business category. This year, the iSTEM Group launched DEIR, a recruit-tech platform that eliminates recruitment bias for women in STEM. DEIR has also received recognition in STEM and has won two prestigious awards including the Lift Women Social Impact Award in 2022 and the “Equity in Innovation Award” at the 2023 Burning Hereos Competition.

If you want diversity, then create the space for inclusion

iSTEM Co. is a research, consulting and talent sourcing company aimed to promote and enable employment of women in STEM including women of colour and women from CALD into Australian STEM organisations.