An agriculture skills exchange platform pitch has won the Western National Innovation Games, which this year focused on removing barriers for women in STEM, capping off a week-long program opened by Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley.
Held virtually, the competition included 19 teams, representing each state and territory, collaborating with industry, education, government, and not-for-profit organisations to develop practical solutions to defined STEM challenges.
The overall winner was a team of students and university graduates who pitched an Agriculture Skills Exchange platform for women to teach and exchange skills and experience throughout their careers.
The platform was presented as a way of overcoming the gender barriers in the Australian agriculture sector which see many women leave the male dominated industry in their early to mid-career.
The team successfully argued the platform could connect a network of women with experience in the agriculture industry, and would be supported by in-person field days, a call centre and corporate sponsorships.
The Western National Innovation Games runner-up was a team that developed a virtual reality experience for women considering careers in mining, and technology to connect remote mining workers with their families.
Third place went to a team that pitched a platform to connect female finance workers going on maternity leave and provide career coaching.
The Games concluded a week of collaboration from STEM and Innovation leaders as part of a Paddl Impact Accelerator program.
The program began with a presentation by Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley, who discussed the cultural and social barriers women in STEM face and led a pledge by Australian STEM leaders to establish practical responses.
Paddl Co. chief executive officer, Dominique Fisher said the initiative had successfully connected STEM leaders and surfaced many of the barriers they face.
“It was a fantastic week and wonderful to experience the genuine desire for change demonstrated by everyone involved, from the most senior leaders to the participating students. They demonstrated incredible generosity and a deep commitment to fixing the issues we discussed,” Ms Fisher said.
“As the week unfolded, it became obvious that the specific challenge we need to overcome is deepening and widening the STEM talent pool available in Australia. While there has been some improvement, it’s still too small, and tiny in comparison with what’s needed to support the jobs of the future.”
InnovationAus is the media partner for the Paddl Impact Accelerator Program ‘Achieving Diversity in STEM’ and Western National Innovation Games.