The federal government has outlined how it will spend $4.5 million to encourage more women and girls to pursue a career in STEM, with funding going towards a 10-year plan, a new ambassador and a toolkit for teachers and parents.
The funding was earmarked in last week’s federal budget, and builds on the $13 million over five years that was allocated in late 2015 as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
The largest portion of the funding will go towards a new Women in STEM Ambassador, with $3 million going towards the position which will be filled by the end of the year.
The Academy of Science will receive $600,000 to develop a ten-year plan for women and girls in science, which it is expected to deliver to government by the end of the year.
A toolkit will also be developed for parents and teachers to assist with encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM education with $400,000 in funding, while the Jobs and Innovation department will also develop a whole-of-government strategy to increase the number of women and girls in STEM.
Innovation Minister Michaelia Cash announced the funding package at Deakin University in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.
“Only 17 per cent of professors in STEM are women. They are fantastic women but we can do a lot more. When young girls aged between nine and 11 are asked to draw a scientist, guess what they draw? A man. We know that is not the reality,” Senator Cash told the media on Wednesday.
“And when you look at the types of jobs that are going to be created going forward, 70 per cent will require knowledge of STEM.”
“We now have an opportunity to really influence policy in relation to getting more women and girls into STEM. We are working with and listening to the sector, and they’ve been telling us they want a decadal plan for women and girls in science.
“So we’ll be giving funding to the Academy of Science to put together that decadal plan by the end of the year.”
The toolkit will also be developed to help teachers and parents show young women and girls what a STEM career can involve and match their interests with a potential career path.
“We’re also hearing that they want their young girls to know that there is a potential for a career in STEM, but they need a toolkit for how they go about and inspire their young daughter. We’ll be funding a toolkit to use for teachers and parents. It’s all about doing what we can as a government to put in place the right policies so that young girls know they can leave schools and have a career in STEM,” Senator Cash said.
The Women in STEM Ambassador, announced earlier this year, will “advocate for gender equity in STEM, raise awareness of issues, prosecute the case for change and build visibility and promote women in STEM”.
Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer was also on hand to announce the funding package.
“It is critical that the jobs of the future, the jobs that will be created for my daughter, will be in the STEM place. It is important that we encourage, that we inspire and that we involve women in the earliest opportunity in making choices that can help them with their career and their economic engagement,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
The federal government also announced the latest round of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship program, with 22 organisations sharing in just over $4 million in funding.
The announcement follows the first convening of the government’s women’s advisory panel on innovation earlier this year, following more than a year of planning and delays.
The panel of eight women and three men discussed current and potential departmental policies and how they impact women in the sector, including education and the gender pay gap.