Encouraging more girls to seek a career in STEM

Women represent at least half of the working population in Australia, and this is a trend that will likely stay put in the near or distant future. In 2018, the number of girls under the age of 14 almost equal the number of boys. As such, to maintain the level of productivity in the workforce, it has become increasingly important to balance the diversity scale between men and women, across all fields. Emphasis has been placed in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as indicators highlight a greater disparity in gender in that field.

In 2018, a survey found that despite the number of women with tertiary qualifications in STEM rising 23 per cent between 2006 and 2011, the number of women with qualifications in other fields rose higher at 31 per cent. This implies that in spite of this increase, women with qualifications in STEM are still falling behind other fields. Whilst there are several factors that influence the interest of women pursuing careers in STEM, such as opportunity in higher paying roles and representation of women in public awards and honours, attracting more students to enrol in STEM related fields remains at the core of the very matter.

The Women in STEM Strategy discussion paper found that, the participation by young women in school subjects such as higher mathematics and science, key for engineering careers was alarmingly low.

young girls can’t be what they can’t see

Go Girl, Go for IT’s 2018 Ambassador Ally Watson

Studies have demonstrated that increasing interest of girls in enrolling in these subjects is directly related to the number of female maths and science teachers in high school. Recently however, this decline has been attributed to the overall shortage of specialist teachers, male or female, in the relevant fields.

The focus on growing interest in STEM from school has been enhanced by the federal government’s announcement on their plans to help boost the number of specialist science and maths teachers in every high school. This is in line with the government’s strategy to improve gender equity in the field by advancing women in STEM.

With statistics like a 9.2 per cent drop in female students not studying maths or science in schools between 2001 and 2014 in New South Wales alone, it is imperative that we focus not only on attaining, but retaining interest of girls at a younger age to explore career opportunities in STEM. 

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Go Girl, Go for IT, the first of a five-step programme by VIC ICT for Women, aims to do just that. This largest sponsor and volunteer-only programme in Victoria recently expanded the group of participants from years seven to 12, to include girls in years five and six. It also brings together other like-minded organisations who are keen to invest not only in the need for gender diversity but also increasing the number of students in STEM. 

As numbers of STEM students in Australia continue to decline more rapidly than the rest of the world, this investment in time and effort today is more important than ever, if we want to stay ahead in the race. 

If you’re interested to get behind this worthwhile cause, volunteer or sponsor to become a part of Go Girl, Go for IT today.