The latest STEM Equity Monitor Report released by the Federal Government‘s Department of Industry, Science and Resources, is out now and it’s a bit of a shock to see that women still only make up 20% of the enrolments for IT degrees in Australia. On the positive side, the fact that more women are now completing their IT degree shows us we are moving in the right direction – towards more gender balance for women in STEM in this country.
Professor Yolande Strengers, the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, said about the STEM Equity Monitor Report: “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,” she added.
Professor Strengers said this shows us there is “clearly more work to be done” but she added it’s promising to see the increase in the proportion of women who complete an IT degree – pointing out that this figure is up 3 percentage points from 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,” Professor Strengers added.
Professor Strengers referred to stereotypes in popular culture still being a large part of what’s holding girls back from taking up tech degrees. She said: “Stereotypes in popular culture, peer and parental influence, and the ongoing socialisation of boys and girls into different fields of interest and expertise are all persistent issues that continue to delay progress towards gender equity in STEM studies and careers.”
But the Professor said the programs we have in place for school-age girls are working and we need to persist with these. She said: “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.”
“Creative programs that build technical skills whilst simultaneously demonstrating how emerging fields like AI need contributions from all disciplines and perspectives to address issues of social responsibility, equality and ethics are a great way to encourage young girls to experience STEM,” Professor Strengers added.
“There are now many programs in Australia and across the world that pursue this goal. For example, Monash Tech School’s Superbots industry immersion program, developed in collaboration with the Faculty of IT and the Women in Voice ANZ Chapter invites girls to develop and program voicebot personalities for real-world applications – bridging the social and technical sciences.
“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,” Professor Strengers added.
You can read more from Professor Strengers here on Monash Lens, including information on:
- Gender biases in emerging technologies
- Digital sociology
- Human-computer interaction
- Energy consumption and smart technology use
For more from Women Love Tech on gender equality in STEM, visit here.