The WILD Program helps build on the qualifications, skills and confidence of women considering senior leadership roles and company directorships, and identifies the high level of candidates ready to take on senior roles. As at April 2018, the percentage of women on ASX 200 boards was 27.5%, and increases over recent years have been marginal. Programs such as WILD put the focus on achieving sustained growth in female representation at senior levels of business.
This year’s program received 70 applications from female members of Victoria’s STEM sector for the 20 spots available, with the program providing enrolment into the Company Directors Course run by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), a leadership skills short-course, and hands-on mentorship.
The WILD Program is led by Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), supported by a project team comprising STEM professionals across Victoria, and is sponsored by the Department of Industry, Innovation & Science, and Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF). Dr Lauren Giorgio, co-founder and Program Director of WILD, said, “While female participation in Australian leadership positions is slowly on the rise, a lot of the barriers still exist including a lack of mentors and the cost of qualifications. It’s our hope with the WILD Program that these barriers can be addressed, leading to more women on boards and in senior leadership positions”.
Co-founders Dr Nadine Brew and Dr Udani Reets agreed, and urged boards to do their part by giving more opportunities to women who are qualified, but may lack some experience.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “On behalf of the Commonwealth Government, I congratulate the successful applicants and everyone associated with the WILD program. This is an important initiative in preparing women in biotech for more effective participation in development of their own careers, offers those women additional resources to equip them for future Board roles and helps to ensure that the biotech sector benefits from the contributions of all its members. I am proud to be associated with the program”.
The first intake of women will commence the program in February 2019 with the AICD course, and the remaining components of the program take place over the next 3 – 4 months.
Krystal Evans, CEO, BioMelbourne Network, and successful applicant for this year’s WILD Program, said, “This is an exciting leadership program, and it’s an incredible privilege to have been selected to take part in the WILD program in its first year. All of the research shows that diverse teams make better decisions, and enabling more women in STEM to build their skills and pursue leadership opportunities, will be a huge benefit to the broader STEM ecosystem”.
Applications for this year’s WILD Program were assessed by a selection panel drawn from leading members of Victoria’s STEM sector. Key selection criteria included demonstration of contributions and influence within their field, an upward career trajectory and clear benefits of the WILD Program to the applicants career.
MRCF board director Winsome Hall, said that the loss of talent from the medical research sector was an issue for investors. “We know that diversity brings better outcomes and we see its benefits in our portfolio companies. So we are pleased to support the WILD Program and look forward to other positive steps to retain talent across the sector”.