The first 50 recipients of the government's $41 million program to increase participation of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) were announced at Parliament House on Wednesday.

Over the next six years, up to 500 women will be able to receive scholarships administered by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineer’s (ATSE) to undertake mid-career leadership qualifications, undergraduate degrees, or post-graduate studies in STEM research areas at 19 different universities around the country.

Kyle Walker CEO of ATSE said more than 1,000 women had applied for the first scholarship round.

“The demand demonstrates that a huge range of Australian women are keen to study STEM and embark on, or grow, rewarding careers, tackling modern challenges and solving problems through a STEM lens,” she said.

“It was terrific to receive applications from a genuinely diverse range of women – our inaugural scholars represent the breadth of Australian society.

“We are particularly delighted to be able to award a number of Elevate scholarships to First Nations women, recognising the value of Traditional Knowledge and encouraging increased representation in STEM are key values for the Elevate program and for ATSE.”

ATSE fellows this week received awards during the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science including Professor Alison Todd and Dr Elisa Mokany, the co-founders of molecular diagnostics company SpeeDx who received the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.

There has been a general uptick in the number of women working in STEM occupations with the latest government STEM Equity Monitor noting a 20 per cent increase in 2021.

However, women remain vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs with around 247,000 women working STEM roles in 2021 compared with 1.3 million men.

In September the government announced it would review STEM equity funding programs with a view of both adding much-needed diversity in technical industries but also “meet the growing demand for workers in the tech and science sectors”, Industry Minister Ed Husic said at the time.

Part of the new government’s time-consuming overhaul of its predecessor’s projects saw the $3.8 million Supporting Women’s Mid-Career Transition into the Tech Workforce program cut during the October budget, much to the chagrin of industry stakeholders.

On Thursday, Husic and announced the four women who will sit on the panel for the Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review which will be chaired by Cicada Innovations CEO Sally-Ann Williams.

Williams will be joined by biotechnologist Parwinder Kaur, Cabrogal woman and CEO of Indigital Mikaela Jade, and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources Narelle Luchetti.

Husic said the review would help “create equal opportunities for women and historically under-represented groups to pursue education and careers in STEM”.

“STEM communities that are diverse, inclusive and collaborative are crucial to meeting the challenges of the future and maximising the nation’s potential,” he said.

“It also makes good business sense: studies have found firms with diverse workforces perform better.”