Girl Geek Academy calls on government to improve STEM diversity support

Girl Geek Academy is lobbying the Australian Government to take action on supporting diverse STEM initiatives.
girl geek academy government funding women stem

A new report from Girl Geek Academy, an organisation working to ensure gender diversity in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), has revealed a major gap in support from the Australian Government, and the impact that underfunding has on diversity initiatives.

In researching for the report, a survey established by Girl Geek Academy has revealed major frustrations towards ongoing government-led diversity initiatives in STEM, which fail to provide adequate support or funding for organisations working in the space.

‘The Australian Federal Government has invested $100 million over 10 years to address Diversity in STEM and Entrepreneurship. That’s $10 million per year. Or $2 million each year to tackle gender inequality in each [field] of Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Entrepreneurship,’ the report states.

88.2% of survey respondents believed this was inadequate to address the lack of diversity in STEM and Entrepreneurship in Australia. ‘Running a mid-sized studio alone costs a million a year at least,’ one respondent said. ‘If you want to make any dent at all you need to be tossing far more at this, if you want a real change.’

Others flagged that funding would only account for a handful of salaries, and would barely cover the cost of expos, incubators, investment, or coaching programs which have the potential to reach a wider audience.

Read: Girl Geek Academy calls for better funding for women in STEM

Girl Geek Academy calls for commitment, coordination, and investment

While the Australian Government has commissioned a diversity in STEM program to address some of these concerns, Girl Geek Academy has flagged that it lacks ‘commitment, coordination and most importantly, investment.’

Currently, the government is also undertaking a year-long review of its approach to STEM funding and pathways into the industry – and as a result, all diversity funding has been frozen until the review is complete.

Girl Geek Academy believes this freezing is unnecessary, and that it halts much-needed change in STEM fields. Rather than a review, the organisation is calling for direct action to fix challenges facing women and girls on the path to success in STEM.

‘Australia needs women in STEM to thrive,’ the report states. ‘A recent Deloitte report into digital entrepreneurship of Australian women highlighted a $1 billion dollar return from targeted investments to tech-based start-ups led by women. And still there are reviews on what to do.’

Read: Maybelline New York launches campaign spotlighting gender discrimination in gaming

Girl Geek Academy has also criticised the government’s blanket stance for addressing gender inequity, which currently takes the form of one funding pool for initiatives in STEM, as a whole – despite each field having its own issues and industry-specific challenges.

‘Grouping STEM gender equity activities together in this way does not do justice to the nuance and needs of women Scientists, women Coders and Game Developers, Women Engineers or Women Mathematicians,’ the organisation says.

It has called on the government to invest in tangible solutions, including women-designed action programs and other education initiatives that provide accessible pathways, and reduce gender discrimination in STEM.

The heart of the matter

To bring this issue further into the light, Girl Geek Academy has detailed five major challenges currently facing women entering STEM fields – which range from a lack of support, to overt and public discrimination in the workforce. These key issues are:

  • Girls and women passionate and interested in STEM are squeezed out of learning and industry at all stages of their career.
  • The STEM career pipeline is designed for men, not women, and there is no gender lens on career advice and progression opportunities at school or within the tech industry.
  • The STEM industry fails to provide effective role models for women, men or non-binary people.
  • Investment in talented girls and women is inadequate and discriminatory, resulting in a loss of innovation and economic benefit to Australia.
  • Being a gender change agent in technology is exhausting and traumatising, and the backlash is real.

The report dives deep into the shocking experiences of women in STEM, and how these factors play into their careers on a daily basis.

While change will be difficult to implement in the long run, given the discrimination currently being faced, Girl Geek Academy believes the Australian Government has the power to implement positive diversity from the ground up.

There is hope this report will open eyes to the challenges facing women in STEM fields, and provoke change on a federal level. You can view the entire report for yourself on the Girl Geek Academy website.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.