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Leadership with STEM a Future Challenge

Updated: May 22, 2023


Finding future STEM leaders

In today's rapidly evolving world, the significance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) cannot be understated. These fields drive innovation and economic growth, and they shape the way we approach and solve global challenges. STEM is no longer the land of the “geeks”. Some interesting STEM statistics:

  • STEM underpins around 65% of Australia’s GDP

  • 1% of Australia's workforce moving to STEM equals an increase of almost $60 Billion in GDP

  • STEM workers with a bachelor's degree or higher have a median salary that is over 45% greater than that of non-STEM workers with a bachelor's degree or higher.

  • 43% of the USA Fortune 500 companies’ leaders have a STEM background.

The success of STEM industries is not solely due to the technical skills of their workforce. Leadership plays a critical role in the advancement and impact of these sectors. The importance of leadership in STEM cannot be overstated, and how it fosters innovation, collaboration, and positive change. Information and Communications Technology, and many of the STEM disciplines, require proactive leadership in order to achieve a successful outcome.


Looking at some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, STEM plays a key role in their creation, development and growth. For example:

  • Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of Amazon, holds a degree in electrical engineering and computer science.

  • Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX started with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics.

Without the use of the STEM disciplines there would be no internet, no mobile phones, no satellites in space, man could not have walked on the moon, we could not explore the deepest parts of the oceans, surgery and medicine as we know it today would not exist. The list of how STEM contributes to our lives is very long.


STEM is now a foundation pillar of the Australian and world economies.


"Analysis by Deloitte Access Economics has found the productivity dividend from digital innovations has resulted in a 6.5% increase in economic activity, equivalent to an additional $126 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the economy."

Source: ACS Australia's Digital Pulse 2022


STEM challenging the future

Fostering Innovation


Effective leaders can inspire their teams and cultivate an environment that encourages creative problem-solving. They empower individuals to push the boundaries of what's possible and provide the necessary resources and support for their team members to take risks. In STEM fields, where innovation is paramount, strong leadership is crucial to stay ahead of the curve and developing groundbreaking technologies and solutions.


Encouraging Collaboration


Collaboration is the lifeblood of successful organisation and a cornerstone to successful technology projects. Complex problems often require interdisciplinary approaches, drawing upon the expertise of professionals from different backgrounds. Great leaders understand the importance of building diverse teams and fostering a culture of collaboration. They encourage open communication, information sharing, and constructive feedback, which ultimately leads to more effective problem-solving and innovation.


Impact of Changing Technology on Future Leaders


Artificial Intelligence  AI Leadership

A great example of technology forcing change is Artificial intelligence (AI), it is rapidly transforming the workplace, and leadership is no exception. AI is already being used to automate tasks, analyse data, and make predictions, all of which can have a significant impact on how leaders lead. Some of the ways that AI is impacting leadership:

  • AI can help leaders make better decisions. AI can analyse vast amounts of data and identify patterns that humans might miss. This can help leaders make more informed decisions about everything from strategic planning to resource allocation.

  • AI can help leaders free up time. AI can automate many of the tasks that leaders typically spend time on, such as data entry and scheduling. This can free up leaders to focus on more strategic and creative work.

  • AI can help leaders build better relationships. AI can be used to personalise communication within teams, provide feedback, and resolve conflicts. This can help leaders build stronger relationships with their teams.

Overall, AI has the potential to make leaders more effective and efficient. However, it is important for leaders to understand how AI works and how to use it effectively. Otherwise, AI could have a negative impact on leadership. Tips for leaders on how to use AI effectively:

  • Understand the capabilities of AI. Leaders need to understand what AI can and cannot do. AI is not a replacement for human judgment, but it can be a valuable tool for making better decisions.

  • Be transparent with employees about how AI is being used. Employees need to know how AI is being used in the workplace and how it might impact their jobs. This will help to build trust and avoid any concerns about job security.

  • Use AI to augment human skills, not replace them. AI should be used to complement human skills, not replace them. Leaders should focus on using AI to automate tasks, analyse data, and make predictions, so that they can focus on more strategic and creative work.

By understanding the potential impact of AI on leadership and using it effectively, future leaders can take advantage of AI technology and related services like never before. Our future leaders will also be the ones that shape governance, policy and processes for new technologies.


Developing Future Leaders


Leadership in STEM is about more than just managing a team. It is about inspiring and nurturing the next generation of STEM professionals. Good leaders invest in the growth and development of their team members, offering mentorship, guidance, and opportunities for advancement. By investing in the professional development of their employees, leaders help to ensure the future success of their organisation and the STEM industry.


Driving Change and Social Impact


STEM leaders have the power to drive change and make a positive impact on society. They can identify challenges, develop innovative solutions, and implement them to improve the world around us. By advocating for their work and engaging in important conversations, STEM leaders can inspire others to join their cause and contribute to the greater good.


Overcoming Challenges and Adapting to Change


The world of STEM is constantly changing, and leaders must be able to adapt to new information, technologies, and challenges. This means embracing uncertainty, learning from setbacks, and being willing to pivot when necessary. Strong leaders are resilient and adaptable, qualities that are essential for navigating the complexities of STEM industries.


Strong STEM Leadership


Australian leaders in STEM have made significant contributions across a broad variety of fields and have demonstrated the power of strong leadership in driving innovation, collaboration, and positive change. They serve as role models for the next generation of STEM professionals and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. By recognising their achievements and learning from their experiences, we can continue to foster a thriving STEM ecosystem in Australia now and into the future.


Leadership in STEM is critical for fostering innovation, collaboration, and positive change. It drives the lifestyle improvements, grows our economy and drives industry forward which ensures continued success in the face of evolving challenges. By investing in the development of strong leaders, we can help to secure the future of STEM fields and create a better world for all.


Australia is home to a wealth of talent in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The country's commitment to fostering innovation and growth in these areas has produced remarkable leaders who have made significant contributions to the global STEM community.



But we need to bring more talented individuals into the STEM disciplines to create the leaders of the future. The current leaders should be working to bring forward new talent and find the future leaders. Many are by supporting industry driven STEM events like Big Day In and Junior Big Day In. These events are successfully bringing the opportunities of STEM to students and graduates looking for a career. Following is a brief video overview of Big Day In at University of Technology Sydney 2022.



ACS Foundation Challenge

ACS Foundation

The ACS Foundation has been built to meet the challenge of finding future leaders. STEM, and the knowledge that supports the technologies that we use today, has been around for 10,000's of years back to the beginning of civilisation. Early scholars such as Aristotle and Hippocrates laid the groundwork for many scientific fields. Our understanding in physics, astronomy, biology, and other areas of science, started with figures like Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Maybe they were considered "geeks" at the time.


But advances in knowledge that once took hundreds of years now are being exceeded and refined on a daily basis with new knowledge. STEM enables us to use knowledge to discover and invent new capabilities that we use now and into the future.


The ACS Foundation is committed to help develop our base of skilled STEM people. Our challenge, and the challenge for business and government alike, is attracting people to become the STEM leaders of the future.


Author: John Debrincat FACS, MAICD

Principal Consultant


Director and Chair


For more information about becoming a donor or a scholarship participant supporting our future STEM Leaders contact us at the ACS Foundation.


ACS Foundation

Level 1, 160 Clarence Street

Sydney NSW 2000 Australia

P: (02) 8296-7744

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