Girl Geek Academy, the advocate for women and girls in STEM, has submitted a major contribution to the Australian ‘Diversity in STEM review: Let’s talk solutions’ with a clear call for systemic change.

Sarah Moran, CEO of Girl Geek Academy, said: “We believe that the focus of addressing the lack of gender diversity in STEM has been wrong. It’s not about ‘fixing’ the girls and women; it’s about fixing the system that works to exclude them and continues to push them out. Too much attention has been on analysing how or why women exclude themselves rather than looking at how STEM education and industries block their progress.”

The academy conducted a survey of over 300 ‘Girl Geeks’ – girls and women already interested and engaged in STEM, especially technology – to understand the barriers they face. The response was overwhelming, with participants voicing their frustration at the lack of action and calling for meaningful investment to drive change.

In 2019, the Australian Government commissioned a Decadal Plan. Despite providing a substantive roadmap for gender equity in STEM, the document lacked commitment, coordination, and investment, according to Girl Geek Academy.

“The reason gender equity is going backward in tech is not due to a lack of evaluation of equity programs, but a lack of investment in solutions that we know work,” said Moran. “We need more women-designed, women-centred and women-run affirmative action programs, such as Girl Geek Academy. It’s time to stop talking and start taking action backed by substantial investment.”

Girl Geeks are particularly frustrated by the lack of investment in the problem of their under representation and exclusion. They were scathing of the current investment in STEM diversity programs. of their under representation and exclusion.

Moran continued: “Girl Geeks shared with us so many examples of gender discrimination, unconscious bias and sexual harassment within the technology industry, we only describe it as a widespread, systemic pattern. Until now, we have expected Girl Geeks to be “more resilient” or learn to “act like the boys” or to “speak up and make change” in order to make it in a STEM career. But placing the burden on individual women at individual worksites to change things is neither fair nor productive.”

The report includes 16 key recommendations to the year-long Diversity in STEM review, launched by The Hon Ed Husic MP, Minister for Industry and Science in Australia.

Interestingly, not all recommendations in the report are calling for more money. A number of the recommendations focus on fixing how the current systems fail women, and making sure government procurement and grant allocations are not further perpetuating gender inequality in tech.

“Solutions need to include direct interventions aimed at changing change poor attitudes and behaviours, as well as the risk of gendered violence. But it also needs to focus on lifting women up in ways that ensure they are receiving equal benefit from the digital boom. Retaining the talent and genius of Girl Geeks is a matter of national economic importance,” Moran said.

Non-financial recommendations include:

  • Ensure government Subsidies to the technology industry include gender equality reporting requirements.
  • Encourage behavioural change within the technology industry by requiring commitment to gender equality action following before Ministerial visits, attendance at events or other forms of government endorsement or support, for example by ensuring all speaking panels will be gender equal
  • 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 at university, with similar scaling / weighting to Physics and Extension Maths.
  • Create a gender equity jobs guarantee in the Technological sector, by ensuring the 1.2 Million jobs created in the industry are gender equal.

Moran concluded: “The time for reviews and discussions is over. Our economy, our future, cannot afford it. It’s time to fix the system, not the girls.”

You can take a look at the Girl Geek Academy report here.