Australia’s Maria Thattil shares anecdotes on how to entice women to pursue career in STEM

17 Jun 2021 | Camilla Suarez

Maria Thattil represented Australia at the 69th edition of Miss Universe on 16th May 2021 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Hotel and Casino, Florida, United States, where Andrea Meza of Mexico was crowned as Miss Universe 2020 at the end of the event's finale. Maria’s spectacular performance throughout the competition helped her to secure a position in the Top 10.

The Australian beauty is known for her strong opinions and taking up her space in the world and encouraging other young women to do the same. She used her social media to talk about various topics related to beauty pageants and so much more before the competition and is determined to continue it now. Maria, who has double degrees in HR and Psychology and used to be a Human Resources Manager specializing in STEM roles for women, talks about the need for a fundamental shift in workplace culture if more women are to be attracted to STEM roles and retained.



Taking anecdotes from her own life, Maria shared that she spent years working in human resources and talent acquisition, helping women find roles in male-dominated industries, including construction and engineering. She claims that women are less likely to pursue a career in STEM because of a lack of diversity, harassment, and discrimination, as well as preconceived notions that women are less competent, qualified, or accepted in male-dominated fields.

According to Maria, this lack of confidence in various other industries is centered on masculine ideals of success, making it easy for men to assimilate, whereas women believing that they must work hard to navigate through the masculine workplace norms. Citing a personal example that the diva encountered while she was working as an HR, Maria stated, "One successful, intelligent female manager in her late thirties disclosed to me that she refused to discuss her child with professionals because she feared her superiors would perceive her role as a mother as "compromising her ability to do her job as a leader".

The beauty queen, who is on a mission to empower women and encourage them to step up and work with utmost focus, stated that her colleagues have expressed that woman face barriers in career or leadership programs because it is already decided in people's minds that women will eventually go and have children, won't work, will take a lot of off days, and that can be a lot of costs to pay for the omission. But Maria mentioned that the same barriers and problems are also faced by women who have decided not to become mothers in the future, which is wrong and should change.



The Indian-Australian beauty queen stated that we should come together and help in changing the preset standards of the society. "Implementing pro-diversity strategies, initiatives, practices, and policies are essential. From hosting unconscious bias training to a targeted strategy for diverse and inclusive talent acquisition and management – it all matters. From the language we use to encouraging STEM potential through education, we need to overcome deeply entrenched cultural attitudes about gender that create barriers for women in the first place," mentioned Maria in her blog.

The diva mentioned that changes are happening and it’s going to take some time, but we should hold ourselves accountable for our actions and help every woman who wants to work and empower herself to grow and evolve and help them take their space in society. She finally added, "Women intrinsically belong in STEM. It’s time organizations start acting like it."