Leisha Morrison, Class of 2001 is a Data Analytics Recruitment Consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Outside of her day-job with Precision Sourcing, she helps to promote STEM subjects to girls and encourage more women to take up Data Analytics roles through the networking group she set-up, Women in Data.
Tell us a more about Women in Data – what is the concept and what do you hope to achieve through the initiative?
The concept of Women in Data is based on the simple fact that there is a distinct lack of women who are working in this industry, particularly in leadership roles. The stats are currently at around 24% across Australia; I believe it’s a little better in the UK but a little worse in the US. Asia Pacific seems to have a much more visible gender balance and from conversations I’ve had with professionals there, this seems to be down to their education system having many more girls studying STEM subjects than any of the other continents.
We want to change that statistic in Australia and get more girls interested in studying STEM subjects. The way to do this is by explaining and showing girls and boys what kind of career STEM subjects could give them.
Culture is a much bigger issue than we give it credit for. In order to encourage more women to take up data-centric roles, we need to create an environment where they feel encouraged and invited to be an integral part of the culture. That means changing the notion that data is a male dominated environment; this is important for men, as well as women, because a diverse team is a dynamic team. So Women in Data was born and we invite men and women to attend and knowledge-share, up-skill themselves and network with other brilliant, passionate minds.
The only way we foster change is by making noise in the first place. This is something I feel is our responsibility – to make a difference for the next generation.
Why are you personally so passionate about promoting women and girls in STEM subjects?
Firstly, I’m a feminist who believes in equity, more than equality; I don’t just believe that girls should have the opportunity to do everything boys do, I believe that we all, as individuals, should have the same opportunities given to us; because we’re all different, we should, as individuals, then be given the correct platform to help us succeed.
There are girls who love science, boys who love art; societal stereotypes shouldn’t stand in the way of children’s passions for certain subjects. I was raised by a successful single mother who worked two jobs to send me to CHS and gave me all the same advantages that a two parented family would give their child. My mother never let society tell her I couldn’t have any of those things just because we didn’t fit the stereotypical norm and I believe that’s important.
I was also always a child that struggled with STEM subjects at school and was much more passionate about English and the creative arts – but here I am now forging a career in data despite this.
I want girls to know that they don’t have to sit in any particular box in order to succeed.
How would you describe yourself at school and how do you think CHS helped prepare you for the work you do now?
I was very meek and mild at school. I was not the most popular, nor the cleverest, and I often felt like I was very ‘average’ compared to my peers in every way.
CHS nurtured my individual talent for Music, Art and English and I had some brilliant teachers who recognised my shyness and brought out my personality so that I was ready for further education.
What is your ‘Spark’? What motivates and drives you to carry out your passion projects?
My passion for Women in Data is fuelled by the inspiring women that I meet through this project every day who motivate me to collaborate with them more.
That realisation, that my voice counts, is my biggest spark.
Often we hear people say that ‘one vote won’t make a difference’ and then Brexit and Trump happened and we all started to realise that every vote definitely counts!
Horses are also a big spark for me; I’ve never been happier than when I was riding 40 horses a day and living in the Australian outback – that gave me the motivation and drive to make my next career move.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded and positive people fuels your spark. When you’re at school, often it can feel like you’re the only person like you out there, which is isolating, but travelling opens up your eyes to so many different types of people who are successful in their passion projects all over the world.
Once I realised that I wasn’t alone and I found what I loved, I became my own advocate and everything else started to fall into place.