Roundtable takes on gender imbalance in STEM

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills contribute to more than a quarter of Australia’s economic activity, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) reports.

STEM skills are associated with 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations, innovations, and higher paying jobs.

But, AMGC explains the gender distribution of people who hold STEM qualifications is highly skewed against women in Australia.

Males account for 84 per cent of all people who hold STEM qualifications.

READ: New digital platform to encourage female students into STEM

Only one in four information technology graduates, and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates in Australia is female.

Rectifying this gender imbalance was a key issue discussed at the second meeting of the Industry, Innovation and Science Women’s Advisory Roundtable, held in late November, 2018.

Chaired by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Karen Andrews, the roundtable is designed to inject fresh ideas into government policies and programs, accelerate change, and result in more women pursuing careers in technology and science.

“Improving women’s participation in STEM and business requires action from all sectors – government, industry, and the education and research sectors,” said Andrews.

“Whilst we don’t know what the jobs of the future are going to be, there has been significant research that shows 75 per cent of the jobs of the future are going to require skills in the STEM subjects.

“We have to start from a very strong base in those science and maths subjects at school,” she said.

“So many of the jobs of the future will be built on science and technology, so if Australia is to prosper we must engage and draw on the talent of all Australians.

“Can you imagine what the world would look like – what types of technology and scientific advancements would have been achieved – had we historically benefited from the full participation of the population? We must do more to actively include women in STEM,” said Andrews.

“Increasing participation in STEM by girls and women isn’t just about equity and individual opportunity: it is about the strength of Australia’s research and our scientific and business capability,” she said.

Towards 2025: An Australian Government Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation

– This strategy outlines the Australian government’s roadmap to meet its target of reducing the gender participation gap in Australia’s workforce by 25 per cent by 2025.

– Education Services Australia is developing the Girls in STEM toolkit, designed to encourage Australian girls to study and pursue careers in STEM. The toolkit will help girls understand the diverse range of STEM careers available.

– Minister Andrews announced the appointment of the first women in STEM ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, in October. Harvey-Smith will work to raise awareness of the issues that can hold girls and women back from STEM study and work. She will increase understanding of the opportunities available to girls and women in STEM.

– The Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Initiative is a partnership between the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, which assesses and accredits gender equity policies and practices in Australian science organisations.

– The Male Champions of Change for STEM Group works with influential leaders to redefine men’s role in taking action on gender inequality. It activates peer groups of influential male leaders, supports them to step up beside women, and drives the adoption of actions across private sector and government.

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