Funding boost to govt women in STEM programs


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The Industry department has opened a $13 million STEM diversity grants round while the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering has been given $41 million to run a separate women in STEM university scholarship program over the next seven years.

Both the new round and the Academy led program were announced by the federal government on Thursday and represent a significant boost to Australian women in STEM programs after years of warnings about underrepresentation.

“While progress is being made, girls and women continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics employment areas,” minister for science and technology Melissa Price said in a statement.

ATSE chief executive Kylie Walker. Image: ATSE

Round four of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship (WiSE) program has opened with grants from $500,000 to $1 million on offer from a total pool of $13 million.

The program has been running since 2017 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda and aims to increase awareness and participation of girls and women in STEM education and careers, as well as raise the number of women in senior leadership and decision making positions on the public and private sector.

Previous grant rounds have been much smaller, typically around $2 to 4 million in total, with individual organisations like universities, CSIRO and startup programs receiving grants up to $250,000.

But a $10 million boost to the program over two years was made as part of the Second Women’s Economic Security Statement in 2020, allowing the latest round to be increased to $13 million for projects starting from July.

“We’ve seen throughout the COVID pandemic just how important the STEM sector is to protecting Australians, which is why the Morrison Government is committed to increasing women’s participation in this essential and growing field,” Ms Price said.

“It’s also important that we see more women in leadership and decision-making positions, and the WISE program is designed with this in mind.”

The government also announced it had selected the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) as the delivery partner for its Boosting the Next Generation of Women in STEM program.

ATSE will use funding of $41.2 million to provide 500 university undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships over the next seven years to women who are re-training, seeking higher qualifications, or undertaking study after a break from either study or the workforce.

The Learned Academy of almost 900 fellows will lead a co-design of the program, named Elevate, with the Industry department and other stakeholders such as universities and STEM employers, with scholarships for eligible women starting from July.

“Elevate is designed around three pillars – education and impact designed and led by women; skills building, supported by mentoring and networking; and leadership to increase the influence and profile of women in STEM,” ATSE chief executive Kylie Walker said.

“As well as supporting a strong, thriving cohort of future women leaders and role models to enter and excel in Australian STEM jobs, Elevate will nurture a collaborative and innovative economy-building culture between Australian universities and Australian industry.

“Our goal is to immerse these trailblazing scholars in an expansive network of influential and inclusive research and industry leaders who will inspire and cultivate their future careers. We are thrilled to support their journey,” said Walker.

ATSE will work with several partners on the elevate program, including the Australian Technology Network of Universities, Cooperative Research Australia, Cicada Innovations, FB Rice, DMTC Limited, Gemaker, Women in Leadership Development Program, Women in STEMM Australia (WiSA) and Science & Technology Australia.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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