Ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Girl Geek Academy is calling on the Australian government and Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic to do more for aspiring women and girls working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). According to the organisation, incoming programs like the existing ‘Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review‘ won’t wield impactful results for some years – and will arrive too late to help many women in the field.
‘With “Women in STEM” programs under review for most of this year, we currently don’t anticipate any new funding commitments until 2024. The government’s third year in office is far too late to wait, we need action now,’ Sarah Moran, Girl Geek Academy founder said in a press release urging government action.
‘While we are supportive of the review of “Women in STEM” programs and hope it eventuates in more funding made available in the long term, we cannot ignore the short term fact that women and girls are falling behind.’
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According to data recently posted by the United Nations, just 22% of people working in global STEM fields are women. This ‘significant gender gap’ is persistent, but the UN believes it should be addressed – as women and girls can contribute to economic development, and progressing global sustainability goals.
‘On 20 December 2013, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on science, technology and innovation for development, in which it recognised that full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls,’ the UN said.
Girl Geek Academy is now calling on the Australian government to adopt a similar push, and help to support organisations working around the country to open up STEM access to women.
The October 2022 budget did commit AU $5.8 million over five years towards the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship program – but as Girl Geek Academy points out, AU $3.9 million was also taken from established tech programs for women.
While the organisation has made great strides in the past, teaching thousands of young women about technologies like AI, and career pathways including
‘There has been a drought of these type of programs as most organisations, typically run by women, have not survived the impacts of the pandemic. Girl Geek Academy lost 99.9% of our cash flow overnight when COVID hit,’ Moran said.
To keep the program open, afloat, and accessible for everyone, Moran had to use funds from her own day job. While this move is admirable, the crux of the matter is that organisations like Girl Geek Academy rely on tangible funding – for equipment, formal teaching, and other essential tools.
‘The government must act as we know women and girls have already slipped too far behind. We’re calling for a solid investment in programs for the May budget to secure much needed support for women in industry to “lift as we climb” – we desperately need to bring young girls through the pipeline,’ Moran said.
‘We are looking at industry shortages across the board in tech, A.I. and cybersecurity, we have to invest in one of our most under-utilised resources: women and girls.’
There is hope that incoming events like International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023 will be a great opportunity to discuss the benefits and priorities of local funding. In the meantime, Moran has encouraged the government to take formal action, and fund programs aiding the future of all STEM industries.