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March 8, 2022

Flavia Tata Nardini Feature on 'The Australian' – Science Career: A Chance to Solve the World’s Problems (For International Women's Day)

Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO and Co-founder at Fleet Space Technologies in Adelaide Picture: Matt Turner.

An Entrepreneur, Scientist and Space Technologist

My name is Flavia Tata Nardini and I am an entrepreneur, a scientist, and a space technologist. The vast majority of my colleagues and contemporaries would not combine these roles. I do, because finding harmony between these separate disciplines is critical to my success in each of them.

However, I don’t see myself as a trailblazer. I stand on the shoulders of pioneers like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Christine Darden who broke down endemic discrimination to profoundly further the cause of space exploration in the 1960s.

I feel responsible in my own way to inspire the next generation as these incredible individuals have ignited a passion in me and shown me that anything is possible.

A career in science and research is an opportunity to solve humanity’s problems.

Look how the pharmaceutical world combined to create vaccines during the pandemic. This kind of collective problem solving requires diversity of skill, thought, perspective and personality.

As the Founder & CEO of Fleet Space Technologies, I look at my team and know that we are a better company because we draw our thinking from a rich tapestry of cultures, working backgrounds and points-of-view.

Gender doesn’t feature in how this view point and experience is shaped.

Fleet Space’s Vision

We have a very clear vision. We want to connect people and devices on Earth and eventually the Moon and Mars through a constellation of satellites. Our technology creates connectivity anywhere. In doing so we are proud to help industries operate more sustainably and efficiently on this planet and beyond by unlocking new datasets that will allow us to discover unseen efficiencies.

These should be opportunities open to everyone’s contribution.  

We have made major progress in this endeavour in recent years, this includes raising significant growth capital, opening a US HQ and launching a now fully operational constellation of low-earth orbit satellites. 

We are also part of Australia’s Seven Sisters mission, which aims to help NASA’s bids to return to the moon and eventually explore Mars. None of this could be possible if we saw and operated from one perspective.

It is the vibrancy of culture, thought and action that drives our success. This is defined by the diversity of our people.

Underrepresentation of Women in STEM

But sadly this does not ring true in the numbers. Despite women representing more than half of total university attendees in some areas of engineering, they represent just 15 percent of the students pursuing that discipline.

We have to ask ourselves why. Is this a classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy? Are we, by continuing to describe somebody as a female engineer, female scientist or female researcher just highlighting to a young person that this is an atypical career path?

I believe that a shift in the narrative is required, and it is our collective responsibility to take action, regardless of our gender. It’s easy for us as leaders to passively state that we don’t see gender.

But what’s required is active engagement in under-represented demographics in any industry. We must highlight individuals from all backgrounds and let them be the inspiration for the next generation. 

Within my team, when I think of Zhara, Sasha and Chloe, I see a brilliant engineer, commercial leader and a great marketing mind.

In Georgia, I’m proud to be part of the foundations of a career as a space hardware engineer.

I don’t see women in those jobs but I know younger women will benefit enormously from seeing them shine in rewarding and impactful careers.

As business leaders, today and everyday we should be celebrating the talents and efforts of our people and promoting diversity in our hiring practices.

Days like International Women's Day are right in being for all genders to champion and celebrate the incredible social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but also to mark a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

In science I want to avoid the great tragedy of wasted potential because talented young women feel it is something exceptional to pursue this path. More importantly, they might think this means sacrificing one of life’s profound and defining experiences.

Nearly two years ago, I gave a speech. As a mother, like so many around the world, I was juggling childcare with work commitments.

I posted a photo of me holding my children while addressing the audience. To this day it has been viewed 17 million times by people around the world and I have been contacted by women on every continent.

While I’m glad this has proved an inspiration, I was disturbed to hear stories that they found trouble in their careers for sharing and promoting the post. This tells me there is a long way to go to make a woman in science, in business, in technology and many other industries something so unremarkable we don’t feel the need to prefix it.

Image of Flavia with children that went viral

Encouraging Women to Pursue STEM Careers

In Australia, there is a general trend that we are struggling to encourage our young people to pursue STEM careers. So on this International Women’s Day I’d urge my colleagues and contemporaries across the gender spectrum to speak to young people wherever possible, to highlight the potential of science and research as a driver to solving global challenges.

The young are blessed with optimism and it is within their gift to effect the greatest change.

No matter their gender; as scientists, researchers, technologists, entrepreneurs, mothers and fathers, we should be doing all we can to nurture and cultivate this talent.

We must send a clear message that through hard work and vision, great things can happen no matter who you are, where you’re from and how your name or job title might be prefixed. 

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