Federal government launches new women in STEM strategy

The federal government has launched a new program that aims at lessening gender inequity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors in Australia.

The Advancing Women in STEM strategy responds to issues outlined in the the Decadal Plan of Women in STEM, which provided a roadmap for sustained increases in women’s participation in the sector over the next decade.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the Advancing Women in STEM strategy would build on a range of other government programs.

“This strategy sets out the Coalition’s vision to improve the participation of women across all STEM fields,” Andrews said.

“It outlines our enduring vision for an Australian society that provides equal opportunity for all people wanting to learn, work and engage in these fields.

“The document highlights where government can play a role in supporting increased gender equity across the sector, because we know a broader talent pool will grow the economy and create more jobs.

“It also highlights how government, industry, the research and education sectors and the community working together can achieve better outcomes for our girls and women, and for all Australians.”

The Australian Academy of Science applauded the new strategy, with president John Shine saying that the federal government had a unique role in modelling and encouraging best practice is a powerful lever for change.

“The Advancing Women in STEM strategy clearly articulates a leadership role for the Australian Government and acknowledges the importance of working with stakeholders across the STEM ecosystem to achieve gender equity in STEM in Australia,” Shine said.

“It is particularly pleasing to see the government’s ongoing commitment to the SAGE program which is bringing about sustained change in the higher education and research sector.

“The Academy applauds the development of best-practice guidelines for government grant programs so that they are administered in such a way that does not disadvantage women.”

New STEM initiatives funded through the 2019-20 Budget include an additional $1.8 million over the next three years to support the ongoing operations of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative.

An additional $1.5 million over three years will support a digital awareness program to show young Australian women the importance of STEM to their future.

These initiatives build on the $4.5 million allocation in the 2018-19 Budget which included support for the work of Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith as the Women in STEM Ambassador, and the development of a Girls in STEM Toolkit.