Women in STEM
By Alison McGuigan, Project Coordinator - Women in STEM
Australia in comparison to other nations, is lagging in the number of women currently undertaking studies in STEM degrees at university. The growth of urbanisation creates bigger and better opportunities for society and so with society being represented by more than 50% of women, these opportunities should translate to offer women more than 50% of employment opportunities in STEM related technical roles. However, women remain under represented.
MYOB CEO, Tim Reed, raised the concern that female students lose interest in science and mathematics around age 16 and that only 12.8% of year 12 students, studying advanced mathematics are female.
STEM is critical to learning the skills required for jobs of the future. As we move into the industrial revolution 4.0, it is about a cyber-physical system and a skills mismatch. We are trying to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created in many circumstances. The Global Summit of Women is an opportunity for women globally to meet, discuss and strategise. Throughout the summit, many of the panellists discussed and reiterated the importance that STEM skills will play in the future workforce.
Currently only 17% of graduates completing an IT degree including software engineering are females. With such low numbers, the METS Sector needs to find and keep these sources of talent. It was evidenced, through the Austmine Women in STEM: METS Career Pathway Program, that attracting females within IT degrees is difficult. Austmine secured 5 IT placements with member companies as part of our program in 2017. However, we did not receive the student applications to match, despite actively sourcing students through different social media and university avenues. In 2018, Austmine is working even harder with the Universities to increase resources and boost female IT student participation.
Whether it is unconscious bias or intended actions, businesses need to implement active changes to increase the ability for women to fill technical roles. Zia Zaman, CEO, Lumen Lab, MetLife, outlined a great initiative which has shown positive results. Zaman’s teams are required to have at least one female applicant as part of the shortlist process. This has then gone on to see many of the roles now being filled by qualified and deserving females, removing that unconscious bias that both female and male employees demonstrate in choosing final applicants.
Women typically pick up an interest in STEM again in their 20s, and MYOB has recognised this crucial stage and implemented a program to encourage female’s back into a technical field. MYOB offer women who are interested in IT and coding, a paid internship for 6 months, to train and establish themselves within the industry.
The Minerals Council of Australia will meet in May to discuss and look at how to retain interest in STEM and it will be interesting to see what initiatives can be brought forward from this collaboration.