Celebrating 25 years of connection and community
The 2022 WiT Awards on Friday 16 September 2022 was a very special night for the Women in Technology (WiT) community.
More than 900 curious, caring & creative human beings came together in person to celebrate inspiring women from across STEM and the champions of change who support them. But this was more than just an awards night. It was a celebration of what it means to be human.
It was a chance for WiT to celebrate 25 years of impact and community. To celebrate those who came before us, and those who will take us forward.
It was also a celebration of connection. A chance for the amazing humans in our community to come together in-person to reconnect with those whom they’ve known for years, people whom they’ve connected with online but haven’t yet had the chance to meet face to face, or form new connections with people they are meeting for the first time.
That Friday night the Royal International Convention Centre was filled with an abundance of positive energy and pure joy – creating an electric atmosphere from the moment guests stepped off the top of the escalator.
Our evening opened with Kiah Brown and Maya Dooley from Inala State School (pictured below) returning to the WiT Awards again in 2022 to perform a Welcome to Country, followed by an uplifting, heart-warming and moving rendition of We are Australian.
“Father Spirit, Mother Earth, acknowledge me as an aboriginal woman as I walk on this sacred land.
I acknowledge the traditional owners, the Meanjin People, on whose land we celebrate women tonight, and we acknowledge First Nations people as our first scientists.
We acknowledge the elders past and present, we acknowledge their courage in choosing leadership and we are the leaders of our future.”
Cheers to 25 years
2022 WiT Chair Iyari Cevallos (pictured below) kicked off the celebrations with a heartfelt speech and a toast to those coming before us, and those who will carry us forward. Salud!
Celebrating our past and writing our future
When we first thought about producing a commemorative book to celebrate WiT’s 25th anniversary, one name sprang to mind.
Our author, Marie Howarth, is a born storyteller, respected Public Relations Leader and former Vice President of WiT who has also been our communications and media advisor since 2018. We thank Marie for telling our story.
Our commemorative book ‘Writing the Future: Celebrating 25 years of Women in Technology 1997-2022’ celebrates the legion of talented women and champions of change who have helped write WiT’s story over the past 25 years.
Inside its pages you will discover the inspiring stories behind the beating heart of a community that continues to blossom and grow. We are grateful for the opportunity to gift this special slice of history to the amazing humans who joined us to celebrate 25 years of Women in Technology, thanks to the generosity of our major partners Optus and the Queensland Government as well as our 2022 Powered by Partners CSIRO, QUT (Queensland University of Technology), Data#3, Auto & General Australia, and RSL Queensland.
Following the launch of our commemorative book, we welcomed The Honourable Leeanne Enoch – Minister for Communities and Housing, Minister for Digital Economy and Minister for the Arts – to take centre stage. Minister Enoch thanked the women and champions of change in STEM for making the impossible, possible and shaping Queensland’s digital economy, but most importantly for being role models to their peers, aspiring STEM professionals and for young people like Kiah and Maya. “Because if you can see it, you can be it.”
Minister Enoch then presented the first award of the evening, the Employer of Choice Award (Corporate category), which was won by QUT. The Employer of Choice (Small to Medium Business Award) was awarded to GWI, a Brisbane born and operated management consultancy specialising in using data, information and digital transformation to solve complex business problems.
Michele Pikunic a STEM education teacher at Worongary State School on the Gold Coast, was awarded the 2022 Community Impact Award. Drawing on her passion for lifelong learning, Michele goes above and beyond her everyday teaching responsibilities to deliver innovative educational programs and activities that inspire curiosity and engage children in robotics and the wider world of STEM. She is also working in partnership with the Queensland Museum to empower her students to participate in Project DIG and undertake scientific enquiry to explore megafauna from Queensland’s past.
Next up on stage was passionate WiT Board Director Bronwyn Venus, joined by Stephen Dummett from Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise, to share how STEM plays a critical role in our regions – in everything from healthcare and education to agriculture and mining – acknowledging that WiT has a lot of important work to do to grow regional representation within our community and recognise the contributions of regionally-based female STEM advocates.
Our humble, grassroots beginnings
Following a short dinner break, we resumed with a stellar keynote by WiT Founder Sonja Bernhardt who highlighted accomplishments of pioneering STEM women throughout history – including Queensland’s courageous code crackers who worked with fellow female code breakers from Bletchley Park during WWII.
She also celebrated and shined the spotlight on the trailblazing women who came together alongside her 25 years ago to form a community of Women In Technology.
Each of them had personally experienced the challenges of being female in a largely male-dominated IT sector and recognised that collaboration, friendship and support were crucial if women were to overcome the challenges of gender inequality and take their rightful place in the STEM sector.
Imagine if these inspiring women hadn’t come together to challenge the status quo, and shape their emerging digital world, one colourful event at a time? It’s likely we wouldn’t be here tonight celebrating amazing women doing inspiring work across the world of STEM.
Our sincerest gratitude and appreciation goes to Sonja Bernhardt OAM (aka the Mother of WiT), Jenny Beresford, Carolyn Hill, Bernadette Hyland, Elizabeth Manning, Anne McGill, Yvonne Packbier, Joanne Sherman, Glenda Slingsby and Ann Uldridge, who were later joined by Sonya D’Aoust and Jeanette McLeod.
Following her high energy address, Sonja presented the 2022 Sonja Bernhardt Heart of Values Award to Kellie King from Bribie Island, a thought-leader in the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and chatbots to increase business efficiency. Kellie’s lifelong passion for coaching and mentoring girls to become their best selves, extends outside of business and into sport where she is a respected netball Coach, President and Chair of the Board.
The STEM Heroines protecting our planet
Throughout the evening we celebrated many extraordinary women who have created real world impact in protecting our environment and ecosystems, including:
Inspiring excellence across the world of STEM
This year’s WiT Awards also showcased the outstanding contribution women are making to everything from artificial bones, factory automation and online legal services, to world class advances in health and medical research.
This year we also introduced a new Inspiring Diversity in STEM to highlight industry leaders who are champions of gender diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. It’s the first time WiT has offered an award category that is open to all genders and it reflects how our community attitudes are changing. We welcome the inclusion of our first male finalist and look forward to seeing more male leaders who support women in STEM being nominated in the future. The inaugural winner of the Inspiring Diversity in STEM Award is Associate Professor Kym Rae from Mater Research.
Writing the future
This year’s awards theme, Writing the Future, was a tribute to the contribution women are making to help define, shape and grow the digital economy.
“As we celebrate and reflect on 25 years of WiT it is as important to focus on the future. I believe we have the ability and responsibility to dream big, to visualise achievements for the women still to come, to continue to increase our energy and momentum in leading and motivating current and future generations of women. We’ve created an opportunity to rally around our outstanding talent, unlock their potential, promote each other and ourselves – impacting our community in a way that creates positivity beyond the event itself.”
Iyari Cevallos – WiT Chair
Congratulations to all our 2022 winners, finalists, applicants, and nominees on your outstanding achievements, valuable contributions, commitment to your passion, and your well-deserved success.
Be proud of how far you’ve come on your unique journey to date, and the impact you’ve had on those around you. You’re an inspiration to our community, and a role model to the next generation of STEM professionals.
We’ve got a feeling this is only the beginning of even more great things to come!
Gracie Cảm ơn Merci Xièxiè nǐ
A huge thank you to our team of more than 60 volunteer judges from across industry, government and academia for their tireless and inspiring contribution.
The annual WiT Award is brought to life each year by our small but impactful operations team led by Lisa Cawthorne and supported by Christy Ward, Carla North, Sue York and Jennifer Cox.
The WiT Awards would not be possible without the generous support from our 2022 Award Partners Griffith University, pwc, Pipefish, Mater Research, UniSQ, NTT, The University of Queensland, TechnologyOne and Go1.
We are grateful for the generous support received from our major partners Optus and the Queensland Government as well as CSIRO, QUT, Data#3, Auto & General and RSL Queensland who have come on board as our Powered By Partners in 2022.