Australia has seen a big increase in the number of women being hired in STEM-related professions as the traditionally male-dominated industries begin to try to improve diversity, a new report has found.
Compiled from the latest employment data by international recruiter Michael Page, the report found Australia’s workforce is currently experiencing the sharpest rise in demand for women in STEM jobs in several years.
This is partly because of a number of programs at all levels of government aiming to encourage girls and women to consider a career in tech, report author Matthew Gribble said.
“We are seeing heavy investment from federal and state governments as well as private sector in developing STEM-based curriculums,” Gribble said.
A long way to go
There’s still a long way to go for the industry through, with currently only one in four IT graduates being women, and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates. To combat this, a number of engineering companies in particular are beginning to actively put forward requests for greater gender diversity when looking to hire, the report found.
The study also found that government departments, travel and tourism, and financial services businesses are hiring men and women in digital jobs at an equal level.
The lack of gender diversity in STEM, particularly in tech and start-ups, has been receiving widespread coverage of late, with both industry and government finally looking to address the issue.
At a federal level, the government included $13 million in its $1 billion Innovation Statement at the end of 2015 to promote gender diversity. One of these initiatives, launched late last year, included $3.9 million in funding granted to 24 organisations to support the rollout of a number of projects to encourage girls and women to study and pursue careers in STEM.
This was the first round of the $8 million Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship program.
According to the government, women occupy fewer than one in five senior researcher positions in Australian universities, and make up less than half of the overall STEM workforce.
The government will also be supporting the expansion of the Science in Australia Gender Equity project to include more Australian science and research institutions, along with establishing a Male Champions of Change initiative.
Victoria leading the way
At a state level, the Victorian government has been particularly vocal on the matter, with Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis spearheading a number of initiatives focusing on improving gender and cultural diversity in tech.
“Our future economy will be based on ideas - and there is no better business plan than allowing every Victorian to reach their potential,” Dalidakis said.
“It’s good for them - and it’s good for the rest of the state.”
This included last year’s blueprint for gender equality in Victoria, which featured a heavy focus on the STEM industries. The report found that women make up 46 percent of the overall Australian workforce, but only 20 percent of digital tech workforce. Of those people, 30 percent were found to leave the industry after 10 - 15 years.
“Science, engineering, technology and innovation will be the foundation of many of our future careers, yet women are frequently excluded from them. We want to find out why, and how they can better reflect the community they serve,” Victorian Minister for Women Fiona Richardson said.
“Small businesses employ more people than any other part of the economy. It’s also where much of our innovation is coming from – we want all Victorians to benefit, regardless of their gender.”