Federal Government backs MRCF-led program to support women into top STEM leadership positions with $1m funding

August 13, 2021

The Brandon Capital managed-Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), in partnership with WILD Program founders, receives funding to roll out the Program nationally

The MRCF-led Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Program, established to increase female participation in the most senior STEM leadership positions, has received over $1 million from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women.

Despite Australian jobs in STEM growing one and a half times faster than any other sector[1], women still only account for 16 percent of the STEM workforce[2] and 3 percent of STEM executives/CEOs. The WILD Program tackles common barriers to career progression, and sector retention, faced by women working in STEM.

The WILD Program was founded by three under-40, PhD qualified women: Dr Nadine Brew (General Manager, Cincera Therapeutics), Dr Lauren Giorgio (Chief Operating Officer, GPN Vaccines) and Dr Udani Reets (Director Partnerships, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre). With first-hand experience in the sector, their own experiences highlighted the need for an initiative to help develop the next generation of female STEM leaders.

“Australia has so many remarkable women working in STEM but too often they face significant barriers to progressing to the most senior levels,” says Dr Reets. “All of the WILD founders have had our own experiences witnessing first-hand the barriers faced by women wanting to move up the ranks and the program was created to provide tangible solutions to address these.”

“In addition to a shortage of positive role models and a culture of unconscious bias, the cost of training and poor pathways to promotion are the main barriers that we have identified.”

The funding from the Federal Government, under the Women’s Leadership and Development Program, will be used to roll out the WILD Program nationally following a successful 2019 pilot in Victoria. Twenty women joined that first program, with more than 40 percent of participants experiencing career progression while doing the course. It is anticipated that 25 women will participate in the program each year over the next three years with the first cohort to be selected by the end of this year, to commence in early 2022.

“The program focuses on providing director and leadership training and board mentorship, and it also builds a community of female leaders in the industry and creates networking opportunities. Aiming to have 100 women complete the program will have a significant impact on the Australian STEM sector and increase female representation at the executive and board levels,” Dr Giorgio added.

The WILD Program consists of three parts: completing recognised governance training, an executive leadership retreat and participation in board meetings for a STEM-related company so as to gain mentorship and firsthand experience working in a senior management setting.

Of the 20 participants in the 2019 pilot, 75 percent of the cohort have attained a new role or position since taking part in the program and more than 25 percent of participants are now serving on boards. The WILD Program is also being delivered in New Zealand for the first time this year with support from the New Zealand government.

Marthe D’Ombrain, Senior Director & Head, Global Research Innovation at ‎CSL participated in the 2019 pilot and spoke highly of her experience. “Taking part in the WILD Program was an extremely rewarding experience. The program gave me more confidence but also provided access to a community of women in the industry who were willing to share their valuable insights, expertise and skillsets with the wider group.”

Dr Chris Nave, CEO of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Director of the Australian Investment Council and an industry Champion of Change, says there is an industry-wide diversity problem that needs to be addressed. “The reality is that not enough of our brightest young women are choosing careers in STEM, and those that do face unacceptable barriers to progression. It is our hope that this program can start to break down some of those barriers. The extremely positive results from the 2019 pilot are exciting and we hope to see these multiply as we rollout the program nationally.”

The Brandon Capital-managed Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) was one of 60 organisations across the country to receive $39.8m under the Women’s Leadership and Development Program. It is estimated the funding will benefit around 40,000 Australian women nationwide.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne says, “There are many brilliant women working as scientists and researchers across Australia but the barriers they face remain high. The Morrison Government wants to assist more women in pursuing careers in STEM, including in senior and leadership roles. We are pleased to invest in the WILD Program which aligns with our priority to support women’s development and employment opportunities.”

Opportunities will be created for women to up-skill and enter traditionally male dominated industries including non-traditional trades, aviation, construction and coding as well as progress to leadership positions.

Applications for the 2022 WILD Program will open on Monday 13th September 2021. Please visit for more details and to register your interest.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics

[2] Women in STEM Decadal Plan


Note to Editors:

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Ciara Byrne, Mana Communications,, +61 (0) 41 3519 430

Caleb Hulme-Moir, Mana Communications,, +64 (0) 220 698 065

About WILD

The Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Program was developed for STEM women, by STEM women.  It is run by three under-40, PhD qualified women with the guidance of a high-profile advisory group. The WILD Program tackles common barriers to career progression and sector retention faced by Australian women employed in the STEM sector, and provides women in STEM with the qualifications, skills, confidence and networks needed to attain senior leadership and board positions.

For more information about WILD, visit

About the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) and Brandon Capital Partners

Brandon Capital Partners is a venture capital firm that manages the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), Australia and New Zealand’s largest life science investment fund, with more than $700 million under management. The MRCF is a unique collaboration between major Australian superannuation funds, the Australian and New Zealand governments, Australian state governments and more than 50 leading medical research institutes and research hospitals. The MRCF supports the development and commercialisation of early-stage biomedical discoveries associated with member research organisations, providing both capital and expertise to guide the successful development of new therapies. The MRCF has supported more than 50 start-up companies to date, most of which were founded by the MRCF.

For more information about the MRCF visit:

For more information about Brandon Capital Partners visit:

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