Although women make up more than 50 % of the population, they have long been an under-represented minority in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In chemistry, for example, only five of a total of 181 Nobel prizes (2.8 %) awarded over more than 100 years have been bestowed upon women. Closer to home, Professor Frances Separovic-the subject of this special issue of Aust. J. Chem.-was the first woman chemist elected to the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science. That happened very recently, in 2012. At that point in time, the Academy had been electing Fellows for nearly 60 years. The lack of visible female role models and the absence of women in prominent scientific positions may be one reason why girls and young women do not see STEM as a viable career option. After all, if you can't see it, how can you be it? Here, we present personal accounts of our two quite different research career paths-one starting in 2010 that included a significant career disruption, the other starting 20 years earlier in 1990. We describe the challenges we have faced as women in a testosterone-rich environment, and the circumstances that allowed us to continue. We provide suggestions for addressing systemic, organisational, and social barriers to the progression of women in STEM.