STEM Equity Monitor report shows stronger action needed

Wednesday, 05 October, 2022

STEM Equity Monitor report shows stronger action needed

The results of the latest STEM Equity Monitor suggest that more can be done to remove barriers to gender equity and diversity in STEM, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish welcomed the report and said it highlighted the importance of robust and ongoing data collection and evaluation to inform decision-making.

“The report shows a modest increase in women’s workforce participation and enrolments in university STEM courses, which is great to see,” Jagadish said.

“However, it’s concerning to see that girls’ confidence in all STEM subjects falls as they get older and that girls are more likely than boys to list lack of interest as a barrier to studying STEM.

“We must do more to create a more accountable STEM ecosystem that enables the attraction, retention and progression of diverse communities in STEM.

“If we wish to see greater diversity at senior levels in STEM professions, we must take actions that are evidence-informed. The STEM Equity monitor is a valuable tool to guide decision-making and to drive investment into measures that work.”

Professor Yolande Strengers, Associate Dean (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, also believes there is more work to be done.

“The STEM Equity report once again confirms the importance of programs for school-age girls that break down the geek stereotypes and misconceptions that surround studies and careers in information technology (IT) and computer science, and the need to provide accessible, identifiable and inspirational role models,” she said.

“Despite increasing numbers of students, women remain underrepresented in IT degrees — making up 20% of enrolments. The data confirms our own research from the Faculty of IT, which shows girls are far less likely than boys to be interested and confident in technology subjects, despite recognising the importance of technology for jobs.

“While there is clearly more work to be done, it’s promising to see the increase in the proportion of women who complete an IT degree (up 3 percentage points in 2020, which is the biggest rise since 2015). This is a sign that higher education is becoming more inclusive and that dedicated programs to support women in their degrees and careers can make a difference. Initiatives like women’s networks, mentoring programs and tailored support can all improve gender equity outcomes, but the sector also needs to address the role of intersectional privilege in STEM pathways which advantage and accelerate some people’s careers over others.”

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