Tech industry diversity review ‘has to have some teeth’

A Government review of the tech industry had to deliver reforms rather than become a year-long waste of everyone’s time, according to an emerging leader of the sector.

Sep 12, 2023, updated Sep 12, 2023
Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran

Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic has announced the review to see how existing Government programs could be reformed to support greater diversity in Australia’s science and technology sectors.

“Women remain chronically underrepresented in STEM, making up only 16 percent of people with STEM qualifications. Of First Nations people, only half a percent hold university-level STEM qualifications.

“Renewed effort is required to address this problem and meet the growing demand for workers in the tech and science sectors.

“Improving diversity in our science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce is not only the right thing to do, it will also deliver a huge boost to our national economy – $60 billion over the next 20 years.

“Breaking the back of a decade-long science and tech skills shortage will be a tough job – but a necessary one.”

However, Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran said the major reforms were needed starting in schools and universities to employers.

She said there had been a deliberate and clear exclusion of women from the industry which she said often had a boys club attitude. There was also sexual harassment at conferences.

Even the chat in internet-connected games was often aggressive against women.

Moran said she schools would drop classes if they weren’t full and that often meant that IT classes were scrapped.

“The Government runs the schools. It can change that. They can run IT classes for girls,” said Moran, a category winner in the InQueensland 40 Under 40 program.

“Women are being nudged out of the way. They are getting the message that it’s not for them.”

She said the reforms had to include incentivising the industry to foster diversity and inclusion by setting employment targets as a condition for receiving government subsidies and grants as well as for involvement in Government procurement and tenders.

“This measure would also ensure 1500-plus companies would collectively help deliver the industry recommendations from the diversity in the STEM review,” she said.
In her submission to the Government review, Moran said there should also be a gender equity jobs guarantee in the tech sector, by ensuring the 1.2 million jobs created in the industry were gender equal.
She said the Government could also encourage students to study technology in Years 11 and 12 by offering bonus points for completing digital and other technology subjects and applying for technology related courses.

It could also ensure the Australian education workforce received regular digital technology professional development.

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