In the Information and Communications Tech industry in Australia women make up only 24% of the workforce – even though they make up 52% of the entire nation’s population.
STEM industries (that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) are expanding so rapidly, to the extent where 75% of future jobs will involve varying degrees of STEM skills and capabilities. The digital tech sector alone is expected to need over 700,000 info and comms technology workers in Australia alone.
Despite the demand, over 30% of women who graduate STEM-related courses at uni leave the industry within 15 years. It doesn’t help that, on average, women in STEM receive less pay than their male counterparts and frequently face discrimination and harassment in the workplace at the hands of their colleagues. Even without all of those issues, it’s no doubt intimidating and more than a little isolating if you’re the only woman in an office (**ahem industry) full of men. It’s little wonder so many leave the field.
Why are we going on about it?
Tomorrow, Saturday Feb 11, is UN International Women and Girls in STEM day. The celebration started in 2015 to help promote the importance of diversity in the field. The day gives us the perfect op to push the need for a serious talk about the mass of women that leave STEM each year.
Why do we need all hands on deck?
Beyond the job possibilities, STEM professionals are often working on tackling some of society’s most challenging issues – things like climate science, finding cures for diseases like malaria or even designing digital security systems. So yeah, pretty important stuff.
To get the best results in tackling these issues, a diverse array of perspectives is completely essential right? There is clearly untapped potential here. So, we wanted to celebrate a few women at the top of their game in the field. As the saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see!
Georgie Preston, Diabeteens
At 17 Georgie created an app that solves a problem the government spent years working to fix. Diabeteens connects diabetic teenagers across Australia and provides them with a social network designed to eliminate feelings of isolation. It also provides info about the condition, recipes and tips to deal with diabetes at specific times. It’s a simple solution to helping teenagers to understand and treat their condition properly, and connect them with a community of people in the same boat.
Jillian Kenny, Machinam
Jillian founded Machinam, which develops engaging maths resources that are actually relevant to real life! She used her experience from her doctoral research to ensure the delivery of super highly researched and tested, world-class products. Machinam is a for-profit, for-purpose company – the purpose being that all students can relate to the maths skills they need to create their future.
Ally Watson, Code Like A Girl
Ally took a turn of phrase often used as a way of telling someone they’re throwing a ball half-assed and turned into what it should be – a powerful slogan for all women. Her initiative, Code like a Girl, is all about encouraging young women to learn coding, and to take up leadership roles within the tech industry. The program provides interested women with the tools, knowledge and support to enter and flourish in the world of coding. With an online community of thousands, and free events hosted around Melbourne – the first of which attracted over 100 coding enthusiasts, Ally’s initiative demonstrates firsthand the interest and drive women have to learn about the tech industry – they just need the right environment and investment in their skills.