With women still representing one in four IT graduates and less than one in 10 engineering graduates, the Government has backed 24 projects it hopes will foster gender equity in STEM careers.

The first round of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grant program was launched at Croydon Public School in Sydney’s inner-west this morning.

The launch was attended by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Greg Hunt MP, Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Craig Laundy, and UNSW Scientia Professor of Physics Michelle Simmons.

The first round of the program saw $3.9 million of a total $8 million awarded to a range of projects. Applications for a second round of funding open next year.

The grant program forms part of the Government’s $1.1 billion national innovation and science agenda (NISA).

The largest grants - $250,000 – went to organisations including Geek Girl Academy, which CEO Sarah Moran tweeted would allow it to expand its MissMakesCode hackathon nationally.

Geek Girl Academy ran the first such hackathon in late September in Victoria, inviting more than 70 girls aged 5 to 8 to participate.

“We wanted to create a memorable opportunity for young girls to enter the world of programming, and start to build the confidence and ability to understand our world at its basic level of binary data,” Moran said.

James Cook University landed a shade under $250,000 for its She Flies drone camps.

The project, it said, on “developing a series of camps aimed at teaching high school girls and their teachers or parents the possibilities of working with, and flying drones from design and coding through to flying and finally using photography to create maps.”

SBE Australia landed $250,000 to part-fund the creation of a “STEM-focused early stage accelerator program for women”.

CBR Innovation Network landed $240,000 that it said will “go towards creating an out-of-school 10-week program for girls in Canberra and the surrounding region.”

“The program will be run four times over a two-year period and is designed to develop STEM and entrepreneurial skills that enable career pathways for women to enter into these fields,” it said.

“It aims to increase confidence and interest for girls at an age that will enable them to make real choices in their Year 11 and 12 subjects.”

Other initiatives to receive money include:

  • Several focused on creating profiles and other content of successful women in STEM industries.
  • Providing teachers with tools and capabilities to encourage STEM careers in regional and rural Australia
  • Encouraging women into manufacturing, subsea engineering and apprenticeships.

“A wide range of projects received funding, from building interest in STEM for primary school age students, to supporting post-graduates and women already pursuing STEM careers, and encouraging entrepreneurship among women,” Turnbull said in a statement.

“The projects are part of a concerted, national effort to overcome the cultural, institutional and organisational factors that discourage girls and women from studying STEM and choosing careers that require STEM skills.”

A full list of projects that received first round grants can be found here.