Carolyn Thomas, an ExxonMobil Australia offshore risk, environment and regulatory supervisor, is one employee who is challenging gender stereotypes and acting as a role model for girls interested in the engineering world.
Thomas was recently honored for her passion and commitment in the community and named a “Superstar of STEM” by Science and Technology Australia (STA), an organization that aims to recognize talented women in the industry.
Energy Factor had the pleasure of talking with Thomas to learn more about her career and how she hopes to inspire more young women to consider a career in the STEM field.
Energy Factor: How do you think this recognition from STA of women in STEM will change the mindset about women in the field?
Carolyn Thomas: The Superstars of STEM program raises the profile of women in the field and is changing the face of what an engineer or scientist looks like: a fresh-faced, dynamic woman who resembles your sister or your mom! As public perception of engineering and science changes, it opens doors for women seeking promotions or careers in these fields.
EF: You have been involved in STEM since your university days, where you encouraged students to pursue careers in this field. Have you seen the success of what you’ve done?
CT: I certainly have. Many bright students I’ve spoken to thought medicine or law would be the only fulfilling professional career choices. However, through facilitating discussions with veterans in the STEM industry, these students realized how much more latitude they could have with careers in the STEM arena, and the difference they could make to society. Awareness opens doors.
EF: How do you change perceptions around a career in STEM for future generations?
CT: Igniting curiosity and interest is key in steering young people to want to be a scientist or engineer when they grow up. I’ve encouraged that in schools through hands-on activities, from dismantling a microwave oven and figuring out how it works to making acid/base indicators with red cabbage and testing it with common household products. As a child, I thought that engineers did something with engines! I want little girls to know engineers solve real-world problems every day in nearly every industry.
EF: How do you make a career in STEM appear fascinating to younger women?
CT: I solve real-world problems! What I do ensures that we produce gas from the Bass Strait – safely and without harming the environment – to fuel industry, heat homes and power our economic prosperity. I could be in the office today and in a helicopter tomorrow heading offshore. There’s never a dull moment!