Coinciding with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the federal government on Thursday announced an additional $6.7 million to support initiatives advocating for women and girls in STEM.
The additional funding was allocated as part of new funds earmarked in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
A 2021 survey by advocacy group Professionals Australia found that less than a third of the Australian STEM workforce were women and faced a wage gap of 22 per cent.
However, according to the Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price’s office, the proportion of girls who report an interest in STEM jobs has increased by 48 per cent, to more than 68 per cent, since 2018.
The first $2 million is dedicated to Science & Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM program. This will allow a further 120 women in STEM to engage in the program designed to increase their visibility in the media.
Since its inception in 2017, the women who have participated in this program have been mentioned in the media more than 6,100 times and reached more than 33,000 students in schools.
The next $2.4 million will support the Women in STEM Ambassador initiative which has been led by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith since 2018. Professor Harvey-Smith’s office works to reduce the barriers faced by women in STEM as well as provide advice to Ministers on issues of gender equity in STEM.
The remaining $2.3 million will go to supporting Professor Harvey-Smith’s digital awareness-raising campaign Future You. Targeted at parents and children aged 8-12 it has reached 3.1 million people so far since its October 2020 launch.
This announcement comes on the back of a combined $54 million in grants and scholarships were made available to women last month.
Minister Price said that improved gender equity in STEM was essential to national prosperity.
“The Morrison Government is determined to break down barriers that stand in the way of girls and women studying STEM subjects and excelling in the careers that follow,” Minister Price said.
“Our investments will ensure our Women in STEM Ambassador Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith can continue to be a great advocate for gender equity in STEM and the incredible Superstars of STEM program can inspire even more role models.
“Supporting girls and women with opportunities to excel in these areas is not only an important issue of equity, but it bolsters the pool of available STEM-skilled workers.
“This additional funding will continue to address structural and cultural biases that lead to the under-representation of women and girls in STEM, through amazing programs like the Superstars of STEM. The new investment also recognises the work of the Women in STEM ambassador and the Future You campaign in encouraging women and girls to consider STEM subjects and careers.”
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