Long-term action to support girls and women in STEM

Group photo .
From left to right: Ms Julia Banks MP, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Professor Karen Hapgood from Deakin University, Professor Maria Forsyth from Deakin University, Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaelia Cash, and Ms Margaret Hansford from Girl Guides Victoria.

Attracting and retaining girls and women to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers is a challenge in many countries, including Australia. That’s why the Australian Government is supporting long-term strategic action to address the barriers that girls and women face entering the STEM workforce.

The Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Jobs and Innovation today announced a $4.5 million package of new initiatives including:

  • A Women in Science Strategy that will help coordinate the government’s efforts to increase women’s participation in science and technology.

  • A Decadal Plan for Women in Science, which will allow the science sector to take ownership of a comprehensive strategy to encourage more women to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields and reduce the systemic and cultural barriers that prevent them from doing so.

  • A Girls in STEM Toolkit that will support school-age girls to better understand and pursue their interests in STEM studies and careers.

  • A Women in STEM Ambassador who will advocate for gender equity in STEM, raise awareness of issues, prosecute the case for change, and build visibility and promote women in STEM.

The Minister also announced the successful recipients of the second round of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WISE) grant program. Over $4 million in funding will be distributed among 22 organisations delivering projects to girls and women of all ages and backgrounds right across Australia.

Each project aims to boost women and girls’ participation in STEM and entrepreneurship. For instance, Girl Guides Victoria, in collaboration with Deakin University, will deliver STEM activities and STEM camps to girls aged 5 to 17. UAVAIR, in partnership with leading ‘Smart Farms’ enterprises, will deliver several short courses and workshops on implementing aerial robotics in agriculture for regional and rural female students in Years 9 and 10 from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. And, female indigenous rangers in Western Australia will lead a program combining modern scientific principles with traditional ecological knowledge, engaging Indigenous women and students in STEM.

The first round of WISE grants, announced in 2016, provided $3.9 million to fund 24 organisations across almost every Australian state and territory, including a number of regional areas, and involved a mix of education organisations, not for profit groups, and industry-driven initiatives. It included an early stage accelerator program from women in STEM, drone programming and flying camps for kids across Northern Australia, including many from indigenous communities, and taught the basics of coding to five and six year old girls in Melbourne.

The Government is also supporting the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative and Male Champions of Change for STEM group to address gender equity in Australian science organisations.

And the Industry, Innovation and Science Women’s Advisory Roundtable is providing expert advice to assist the Government in boosting opportunities for women in industry, innovation and science.

Only by involving all Australians can we take big strides in science and technology, ensuring the nation benefits from the contribution these discoveries will make to our lives, our wellbeing and our futures.

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