Did you know that only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women?
And in Australia – and IT specifically – the numbers are even more concerning, with only 19% of those enrolled in IT being women.
A new report by Monash University’s Faculty of IT looks into why this is happening despite decades of efforts to fix the situation. It found that there are three main factors that play into encouraging or discouraging girls’ and women’s interest and pursuit of STEM and IT education and careers.
These factors are:
1. Personal, social and cultural challenges
This includes things like prior exposure to STEM and IT, and support (or lack of) from family, friends, role models and mentors. Portrayal and messaging in movies and videogames, plus gender stereotypes that favour men and male traits in IT, also play a role.
2. Experiences in STEM/IT undergraduate education
Negative experiences like unwelcoming environments, low sense of belonging, unequal treatment and regular encounters with gender bias increase the chances of women discontinuing with STEM and IT studies.
3. Initiatives and strategies
Positive outcomes have been achieved for recruiting and retaining women students, and successful efforts include:
- Outreach programs for girls in schools to build their interest and capacity in IT and computer science
- Establishing dedicated scholarships, networking and mentoring programs for women
- Removing ‘geek’ stereotypes and emphasise real-world applications
- Enhancing a gender-inclusive culture and attracting more students from underrepresented groups
The report also highlighted a bunch of Australian initiatives that have been doing a great job of getting more girls and women into STEM and IT, as well as creating positive experiences for them once they get there.
Two examples that are still running today are:
Go Girl, Go for IT: this event challenges the view that IT just means coding and excites and engages female school students by introducing them to role model speakers, showcasing future tech, and showing them what a career in IT could look like.
Women in Technology (WIT) Mentoring Program at Monash University: through this program, women students in the Faculty of IT are paired with alumni and industry mentors for career guidance and personal development support.
Looking for more women in IT and/or STEM resources?
We’ve got you covered. Check out:
- Careers with STEM: Women in STEM role models: we’re proud to have profiled hundreds of women in STEM combining STEM with their ‘X’ – their passion, interest or another field. These women in STEM represent diverse career options for young people looking to pursue a STEM career, and offer in-depth information on the individual pathways they took to get to where they are today.
- Careers with STEM: Women in STEM hub: explore our coverage of the gender gap in STEM.
- The Girls in STEM Toolkit (The GiST): the GiST inspires and informs girls, schools and families in STEM through activities, resources, case studies, lessons, study pathways and careers.
- Techgirls Competiton: this annual comp changes the way girls think about and use technology. The program combines problem-solving through a social, business and technical lens, producing high-quality business plans, pitch videos and working app prototypes from girls as young as 7 to 17.
- HerTechPath: a student workshop designed for girls to explore career options, presented by women in the tech industry.
- Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy: gives young Indigenous women the tools and support they need to succeed in an exciting career in STEM.
Author: Louise Meers
Louise is the production editor for Careers with STEM. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals and build a better future.