Supporting women In STEM: Why things need to change
Lately there’s been a large focus on women in STEM, or more so, the lack of women in these fields. In 2020 the Australian Government created an Action Plan to enable STEM in education, support women in STEM careers and make women in STEM more visible. Empowering women to follow STEM careers starts with the foundational education in schools.
So how can we encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM?
- Inspire and motivate with real STEM women – Australia is home to some amazing women who have paved the way for women working in STEM fields. Classroom talks by Marita Cheng, 2012 Young Australian of the Year with specialities in robotics, or Dr Janet Lanyon who has spent 3 decades researching dugongs and partnered with Seaworld, will help to show young women what opportunities are out there in the STEM field.
- Schools to encourage and apply for STEM grants – This is possibly the best time for young women to showcase their skills and passion in STEM. From grants to support pathways into STEM through new course development, or initiatives to cover the cost of local and international STEM competitions, schools need to be proactive in seeking and supporting such opportunities.
- Talking to the young men – I think it’s critical we talk to young men in school about diversity and inclusion. Pulling women aside and telling them they can do anything is wasted if young men aren’t supportive of their involvement in science competitions or studying high levels of maths or engineering. Men need to learn from a young age about equal employment opportunities and that women can apply themselves to STEM just as well as men. It is through this education process that perhaps we can see a gender shift in years to come, when our current 15 year olds are employers and managers.