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Tech industry out of touch with reality, and suffering

29 January 2019

STEM – it’s the buzz acronym in education; in the future of the workplace, and in the battle still raging around creating a gender balanced world.

UNSW Dean of Science Emma Johnston reckons major institutions need to make it their priority to showcase their leading STEM women to encourage younger women through role models to take-up STEM options.

In a recent Wire article Westpac General Manager, business integration, Anastasia Cammaroto says it is frustrating that women make up only 28 per cent of the tech industry in Australia: “We need more people to be working in this industry and a large percentage of our population is opting not to participate or they’re being made to feel they don’t belong here.”

Dr Sue Thomson, Deputy CEO (Research) at ACER Australian Council for Education Research, as well as the Head of Educational Monitoring and Research and the Director of ACER's Australian Surveys research program, looked at the issue in a recent article “What’s holding females back from participating in STEM?”

In a very quick summary, the brakes on women come down to three things.

Firstly, there’s the mistaken belief that men are better at maths or science, or ICT than women. Research shows it is not the case.

Flowing on from this myth is the more pernicious problem around ‘perception of ability’: “Gender differences in both self-confidence and self-efficacy have been shown to have a profound effect on attitudes to studying mathematics and science both in secondary school and at tertiary level. Male students show substantially higher levels of both self-confidence and self-efficacy than female students. Both are necessary in order to pursue more challenging levels of mathematics or science.”

Finally, there are cultural beliefs: girls don’t do the ‘hard sciences’, you’ll only find men in those workplaces. These are self-perpetuating falsehoods. STEM is somewhere anyone can work: it’s full of ordinary, hardworking people.

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