The Australian flagship deep tech incubator, Cicada Innovations, has named Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO FTSE FAICD as its new Chair. This move manifests Cicada Innovations' drive in advancing diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and deep-tech sector through enabling the incubator to be led by two women for the first time in the 23-year history of the tech-institution; Dr Woodthorpe will be joining CEO Sally-Ann Williams.
Dr Woodthorpe and Williams are exceptionally skilled leaders rich in decades of experience within industries crucial to the economic resilience and global competitiveness of Australia. Regarding the appointments, Cicada Innovations noted their commitment to promoting science and engineering-focused enterprises at both the domestic and worldwide realm.
Having over 30 years of experience in commercialising technology across various critical sectors, like environmental and climate sciences, renewable energy, and healthcare, Dr Woodthorpe brings an expansive portfolio and a wealth of professional competence to the table. She was also key in forming the Cicada Innovations' hub, formerly known as the Australian Technology Park or ATP. She started being associated with Cicada even before it was named ATP Innovations.
Ideally, Cicada Innovations believes that women must play a critical role in deep tech and STEM sector. Therefore, Dr Woodthorpe's appointment clearly illustrates the capabilities, strengths, and crucial role that women can play in these fields. These vital areas believed by Cicada to be significant will allow Australia to realise its potential in commercialising pivotal technologies and creating industries of the future.
Sally-Ann Williams, CEO of Cicada Innovations expresses, “Nobody can underrate the essential role women have to play in leadership in this important sector, and having a female trailblazer like Katherine join Cicada's board is certainly an strong signal towards this fact. Katherine understands the architecture, leadership and advocacy needed at a national level to facilitate growth in complex economies".
Dr. Woodthorpe says, "Australia still grapples to find enough scientists and engineers to sustain our place in an ever-increasing tech-oriented future. If we do not encourage half the population to view STEM as a rewarding career, then we are wasting half of our nation's brain power".
Dr Woodthorpe is thrilled to the point when no-one actually notices that two women are leading deep tech; she is hopeful that her presence will bring visibility to young girls and women to pursue genuine career opportunities in STEM.
Andrew Rothery, the outgoing Chair of Cicada Innovations, affirmed his confidence in Dr Woodthorpe by stating, "Katherine brings significant experience and skills to the board table. I am confident that she will help elevate Cicada Innovations to another level of impact in the deep tech commercialisation space."
These new appointments are particularly important amidst findings from the 'State of STEM gender equity in 2023 report', that indicates only 37% of enrolments in university STEM courses and 15% of STEM-qualified jobs are held by women. Only 23% of women hold senior management roles in STEM, dropping to an unfortunate 8% in the C-suite.