The Coalition’s announcement on the eve of the federal election that it would commit $31.2 million to support women looking to choose and pursue STEM careers was greeted with unanimous optimism by tertiary groups and institutions, including Universities Australia.
The election promise – which would initiate internships and post-school career advice – was designed to encourage female students into future-proofing disciplines and enables them to realise their full potential, Universities Australia deputy chief executive Catriona Jackson said.
There is a great need for such programs to exist in order to expose young people, especially women, to the marvels of science and, more importantly, to how rewarding and limitless STEM careers can be, Jackson said. The rewards reaped, she added, are threefold – for the individual, industry and the national economy.
The program has the potential to address a long-standing trend in which many women take up STEM subjects during their tertiary degrees but eventually select other career paths. It is similar to the notably successful Canadian internship model, which places particular emphasis on internships for PhD researchers in industry and has led to a ratio of seven researchers for every 1000 workers.
“The internships and post-school career advice program will be the panacea for young women on the cusp of their careers, as it will ensure they have the support to translate their university work into something productive and promising,” Jackson said. “It also builds on a growing number of government and university initiatives, including the [Science in Australia Gender Equity] SAGE program, all aimed at redressing this trend.”Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]