2020 Order of Australia Recipient is confident of female STEM leadership during times of global crisis.
During WWII it was women who were key to operating the code-breaking computers at Bletchley Park, a woman - Florence Nightingale, who revolutionised healthcare during the Crimean War and, you guessed it - women who made it possible for us to work and study from home during this pandemic by prototyping what we now know as the internet.
Throughout history it was women who stepped up during times of great crisis. Now, as we live through our current crisis I am calling upon decision-makers to recognise the problem of female underrepresentation within STEM industries. My hope is that the current challenges empower and inspire our young women to become the STEM leaders we need today.
According to a 2019 Australian Government report, female students are participating in STEM education at significantly lower rates than males. Female students are less interested and less confident in STEM subjects. When asked, male students are more likely to see themselves in a future STEM career. As we seek this change it is now time to show our female students we need them. We need their insight, courage, creativity and leadership. We need to grow the female STEM workforce by greater than 17% (2016). What better time to create this change when our lives have become more digital, more technologically driven, with more focus on AI and a need for science to prevail in times of COVID-19.
My work at Tech Girls Movement Foundation is dedicated to equipping girls with the tools they need to be STEM entrepreneurs. Self-employment is an increasingly viable career path in Australia, particularly for women who would otherwise face barriers to workforce participation.
Did you know, the nbnco Connecting Australia study demonstrated that the percentage growth rate of female-led businesses in locations with NBN access was 23 times higher than in other areas. This is a great step forward on the road to seeing more female-led businesses however despite the employment advantages of an entrepreneurial skill set, only 8% of Australian startups are female-led. There is also a well-known gender disparity in STEM fields in Australia, with very low rates of female participation.
Today's 12-year-old girls will be the entrepreneurs of 2025. Which is why the time is now to encourage and prepare our young women with the tools they need to take control of their working life and develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
Programs like the Academy for Enterprising Girls are fantastic initiatives that encourage young females in our lives to think and dream big. Whilst they are troubled with the problems of today we need to empower them to know that they have the answers of tomorrow. Through adversity comes great change and growth, and these young women can make the change we need
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