Young Women and STEM
Published by: Leading Edge Computers
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As jobs will increasingly be transformed by automation, it is becoming evident that Australia is facing a tech skill shortage.

 

By 2030, Australian workers will be spending up to 77% more time using science and mathematics skills. To be able to compete internationally, and ensure advancement in IT and tech, a STEM literate workforce is vital for the future. Despite its necessity for future job growth, female participation in the industry remains an untapped resource.

 

As jobs will increasingly be transformed by automation, it is becoming evident that Australia is facing a tech skill shortage. By 2030, Australian workers will be spending up to 77% more time using science and mathematics skills.

 

To be able to compete internationally, and ensure advancement in IT and tech, a STEM literate workforce is vital for the future. Despite its necessity for future job growth, female participation
in the industry remains an untapped resource.

 

Whilst women make up 46.9% of all employees in Australia, they account for only 28-31% in the tech industry, and 14% of tech executive roles. A 2016 study by the Office of the Chief Scientist found that women comprise of only 16% of Australian STEM university graduates.

 

“Women comprise of only 16% of Australian STEM university graduates”

 

They are especially underrepresented in the ICT, mathematics, physics and engineering fields, whilst also having low numbers within senior positions. Barriers faced by women in STEM careers can include systemic biases, pay disparity, slow upward mobility and job insecurity, deterring them from accessing high level positions and resulting in low retention rates.

 

 

“Melbourne start-up ‘Code Like a Girl’ run tech-focused events and coding workshops around Australia, to encourage females of all ages to pursue tech jobs”

 

2018 Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons

A promising step has been made this year with the announcement of Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons, a pioneering physicist, as Australian of the

Year.

 

She is a professor at UNSW and head of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, CQC2T. The Centre is currently leading the global race to develop a quantum computer made from silicon. Professor Simmons’
work with CQC2T, and her establishment of Australia’s first quantum computing company last year, has made Australia a major leader in quantum computing, which will become a vital industry for the future.

 

 

Current initiatives are already working to boost the numbers of girls and women into STEM.

 

Since 2015, the ‘Science in Australia Gender Equity’ (SAGE) program, an initiative of the Australian Academy of Science in partnership with the Australian Academy of Technology, has been conducting the SAGE Pilot of the UK’s Athena SWAN Charter in Australia, to improve gender equity and diversity in Australian STEM. Another group, the ‘Male Champions of Change in STEM’ was founded in 2010 and brings together influential male leaders to address gender equality issues in organisations and communities.

 

Similar programs are further gaining ground in the IT industry. Melbourne start-up ‘Code Like a Girl’ run tech focused events and coding workshops around Australia to encourage females of
all ages to pursue tech jobs, and continue their careers within the field.

 

Another Melbourne-based organisation is ‘Girl Geek Academy’, which also hosts events and workshops for women focused on hackathons, coding, 3D printing and wearables, game development, design, entrepreneurship and start-ups.

 

Likewise, university student-run organisation ‘Robogals’, organises LEGO robotics workshops and competitions with primary and secondary female students in an effort to raise their enrolment in engineering, science and technology university degrees.

 

Despite growing efforts to improve female participation in STEM skills and careers, there is still a lot of progress to be made to enhance gender equality. STEM initiatives which work to challenge long standing stigma, enhance confidence in girls and young women, and promote female STEM participation from an early age, will help to accelerate Australia’s future global position in tech.

 

“Despite growing efforts to improve female participation in STEM skills and careers, there is still a lot of progress to be made to enhance gender equality”

 

For more information on workshops, visit Code Like a Girl.