Leaders

Her Agenda: Astronomer Lisa Harvey-Smith

Australia's Women in STEM Ambassador opens up about astronomy, blitzing gender barriers and refusing to wear a skirt to school.

By Angela Ledgerwood

Leaders

Australia's Women in STEM Ambassador opens up about astronomy, blitzing gender barriers and refusing to wear a skirt to school.

By Angela Ledgerwood

Lisa Harvey-Smith has always done things differently. She enjoyed primary school fine, but high school? “I was not so keen,” she admits. “First, I would have to wear a school uniform with a compulsory skirt. That was a big no,” she recalls. “Second, the girls and boys were segregated into woodwork and sewing, football and netball. Not something I was not willing to endure.” From the age of 11, Harvey-Smith taught herself the curriculum from home until she started her A-levels (the UK equivalent of HSC) at 16. It was at her local amateur astronomical society in Essex, that she first learned to use a telescope as a tween. Fast forward a few decades (a Masters and PhD under her belt) and Professor Harvey-Smith is now responsible for maintaining and developing Australia’s professional astronomical observatories and leads a group of 30 scientists at Australia’s Radio Telescope National Facility – not such a long way from that stargazing young girl. She’s also the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador. When she’s not publishing scientific papers on cosmic phenomenons like the birth and death of stars and supermassive black holes or hosting ABC’s Stargazing Live, she’s determined to share her love of astronomy and the universe so we won’t need a Women in STEM Ambassador at all. In a equal world, she says, “We’ll never need to preface the word ‘scientist’ with the word ‘female’.”

On her love for Astronomy:

You’ve hit the glass ceiling. And our paywall.

Help us smash it by becoming a Future Woman for as little as $7 a month.

Join the club

Already a member? Sign in

You’ve hit the glass ceiling. And our paywall.

Help us smash it by becoming a Future Woman for as little as $7 a month.

Join the club

Already a member? Sign in