Wonderful Women in STEM: Meet Luisa Panuccio

Women in STEM Luisa Panuccio

“What I’ve been trying to do is change the stereotype around what women in STEM look like.”

According to an article published by Engineers Australia, there is only 12% female participation in Engineering across the Built Environment here in Australia. There is no fundamental reason whatsoever why there shouldn’t be more female engineers and women in engineering in Australia; 35% of engineers in Europe are women. Iran has more than 50% women in engineering and 70% of all STEM graduates are women. Similar representation needs to be achieved in Australia if we are to continue our place as global leaders.

For Women’s Health Week 2021, the team at Aptus took it upon ourselves to forge relationships with women who are leading the industry and highlight their passion, talent, and amazing stories about how they entered the industry.

We sat down with  Luisa Panuccio, Project Manager at TSA, seconded full-time to Arup, and the founder of STEM at Home, to gain some insight into the world of one of the women changing the face of the industry.

Luisa is only twenty-five, and has already received incredible accolade, awards, and recognition within the industry. Graduating with her Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Civil and Architectural) from the University of Adelaide in 2017, she immediately made waves in her roles at renowned  firms such as Aurecon, BMD, and The Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

The pride and passion that Luisa brings to her work is tangible, especially when she discusses the women that continue to shape and inspire her career development. She cites her older sister, a Telecommunications Engineer, as her “role model in a personal sense”, whom Luisa has aspired to echo within her own right from the time they were young. She also references having “never felt so empowered to do her job” until she worked with Virginia James, the Advisory, Planning and Design Lead of South Australia at Arup, whom Luisa has received both positive reinforcement and mentorship from.

In her STEM at HOME video series, Luisa identifies the gap in STEM resources that are targeted to primary school-aged children, and provides them with accessible education to foster their interest from an early age. What started as an activity to keep her little cousins occupied during the pandemic lockdowns, became an ongoing passion project for Luisa, and has now become a platform for her to share with her audience “the real faces of STEM”. These videos have been incredibly successful across her social media platforms, and are simultaneously breaking the stigma around what women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics look like.

Luisa addresses the stereotypes of women in STEM across mainstream media, and stresses the importance of recognising that female engineers aren’t “nerds” or “socially awkward”, and the adverse effects of these presences on young minds. She specifically references the relationship dynamics of Haley and Alex in Modern Family, and the ways in which Alex is alienated for enjoying mathematics and science to be pigeonholed into the “geek” typecast. Luisa urges us as a society to re-evaluate the prejudice behind these preconceptions, and alter the way we view women in the field, without negating their femininity.

This year, Luisa has made a conscious effort to be more protective of her mental health, which has been encouraged by her female leadership teams, who make her feel comfortable enough to make mistakes, and learn from them. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, Luisa cites the maintenance her mental and physical health, organisation, and forging time to exercise and wind down as “so important” to extending the best version of herself to her work.

Watch a snapshot of Luisa’s video interview below.