Professor Mary-Anne Williams

UTS School of Software

Professor Mary-Anne Williams is head of the Magic Lab at UTS, an artificial intelligence research unit that brings science fiction into reality. And if that’s not an impressive enough job description, she has a swathe of other strings to her bow.

In 2016 Williams was listed among SBS’s Six Impressive Aussie Women Scientists. She and her team of researchers have worked on high-profile robotics projects with the likes of NASA and IBM. She is also faculty fellow at Stanford University and guest professor at the University of Science and Technology in China.

Williams is passionate about opportunities for women in STEMM and says the lack of leadership opportunities limits women’s ability to make a lasting difference.

Williams is always looking to the future in her work. In the Magic Lab, she and her team explore future technologies — think socially aware autonomous robots and self-driving cars. So it’s unsurprising that she says a good leader has to have curiosity and imagination to see a better future.

Like the scientists who inspire her — “those who make what others see as impossible, possible” — Williams looks forward to a better future for women in STEMM.

Her advice to young practitioners: “Focus on high-orbit innovation in your scientific work, pursue leadership opportunities to ensure high-impact.”

She also has some simple advice for leaders on how to retain women in STEMM: “Engage them! Excite them! Understand and recognise their efforts!”

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