Jobs and Skills summit provides opportunity to diversify STEM workforce

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Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, has welcomed a commitment from the Federal Government to strengthen Australia’s workforce capabilities.

Last week’s Jobs and Skills summit centred around strengthening Australia’s workforce capabilities by building a more skilled, productive workforce.

Professor Harvey-Smith participated in several roundtables leading up to the Jobs and Skills summit and provided input to the Government, outlining high-impact investments and policies that would supercharge women’s participation in Australia’s STEM workforce.

“The Government’s target of 1.2 million tech-related workers by 2030 is attainable if we can boost workforce participation. Australia already has a significant STEM-skilled population that can be tapped into, but we need to address barriers to working in STEM sectors,” says Professor Harvey-Smith.

More than 420,000 women in Australia have vocational or university STEM qualifications, but five years after graduating, 9 out of 10 STEM-qualified women do not work in STEM.

“Harmful workplace culture, poor access to affordable childcare, the gender pay gap, and a lack of flexible work arrangements prevent women’s full participation in our workforce.”

“The Jobs and Skills summit outcomes are positive indicators that the Government and businesses are serious about working together to reduce barriers to employment.”

“Preventing workplace sexual harassment, providing greater access to parental leave for men, and requiring employers to commit to gender equity are evidence-based policy measures I have been advocating for.”

The Women in STEM Ambassador welcomed an announcement by the Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon. Ed Husic MP today of a review of existing Government women in STEM programs to support greater diversity in science and technology.

The review, which aims to establish which programs are working and which are not, is consistent with the recommendations of the Women in STEM Decadal Plan, which identified evaluation as a key opportunity to help improve diversity in the sector.

“Finding the best programs and scaling them up is a great opportunity. Getting this right will require leadership, but it will achieve significant social change,” says Professor Harvey-Smith.

“Knowing which programs are working and can be scaled up requires proper evaluation. A key recommendation from the Women in STEM Decadal Plan was to boost evaluation to see which programs were making a positive difference. My team has created practical tools to enable evaluation of programs to see what is working well,”

“We are developing a national evaluation framework to guide decision-making and drive investment into measures that work. I hope these tools will support Government efforts to widen the skills pipeline.” 

Professor Harvey-Smith says the evaluation of equity programs is a subject of national interest.

“These programs seek to dismantle barriers to attract, retain and progress girls and women in STEM, as well as other under-represented groups, resulting in a more diverse STEM workforce that can confront important world issues.”

Professor Harvey-Smith says it’s crucial to focus on workplace inclusion beyond gender. 

“Gender is only one characteristic associated with under-representation in the STEM workforce, and a lack of action to support these cohorts is holding us back. Only by embracing profound system-wide change to create truly safe and inclusive workplaces will we ensure everyone can participate in Australia’s STEM workforce.”

“Broadening our STEM workforce will propel Australia forward on the global stage, enable us to find practical and creative solutions to global problems, and build a more robust economy.”

Source: © 2022 – Women in STEM Ambassador

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