New program to address Australia’s girl drought in STEM and entrepreneurship

Australian girls are at an increasing risk of being locked out of our fastest growing occupations due to an increasing divide in the number of girls studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects) compared to boys. 

While STEM-based jobs make up 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations, innovations and higher paying jobs, currently only 17 per cent of graduates in STEM courses are women.

But a new government program launched on Friday aims to turn this around and encourage more girls to find their passion for STEM, and address the growing skills shortage in these fields.

The Academy for Enterprising Girls is designed to encourage all Australian girls aged 10 to 18 years old to learn about the world of entrepreneurship and the future careers that are flourishing in the STEM sectors. It has been co-designed by girls, for girls, and features advice, guidance and insights from some of Australia’s most successful business women and women in STEM.

AEG Director Annie O’Rourke said that on International Day of the Girl (today – 11 October) it was important to highlight the need to get more girls to consider the opportunities that can open up to them if they continue to study STEM.

“Currently boys outnumber girls 3 to 1 in Year 12 physics, and almost 2 to 1 in advanced mathematics. On top of this, only 16 per cent of the STEM workforce is women,” said Academy for Enterprising Girls Director Annie O’Rourke.

“These sorts of statistics tell us that we need to improve the way we market these kinds of career pathways to girls. Particularly in those early teen years when students are deciding which electives they want to study.

“We all know you can’t be what you can’t see, and we know many girls struggle to see themselves as CEOs, entrepreneurs, engineers and IT specialists.

“That’s where the Academy for Enterprising Girls comes in. It is a new way for girls and their parents to look at the world of STEM and enterprise. It’s about appealing to girls’ natural talent for problem solving, and showing them the possibilities that are open to them.

“STEM and entrepreneur skills are in hot demand in Australia and overseas. We need to show young women and girls the amazing opportunities these sectors offer.

“By joining the dots we can give girls the skills they will need for their future, as well as build the skilled workforce we need so Australia doesn’t get left behind,” said Ms O’Rourke. 

About the Academy for Enterprising Girls

The Academy for Enterprising Girls is an initiative of the Council of Small Business Organisation Australia (COSBOA), developed in partnership with industry and education experts. It has also been co-designed by over 200 Australian girls who have helped ensure the program will speak to them. 

The Academy for Enterprising Girls involves two elements. The first is a digital platform offering engaging videos and content for girls to show them how to become an entrepreneur, featuring some of Australia’s most successful business women. 

The second is a self-paced e-learning module and national workshop program for girls to develop their entrepreneurial skills with a focus on STEM. Girls will learn about design thinking, coding, business development and have fun along the way!

The Academy for Enterprising Girls is funded under the Australian Government’s $3.6 million Future Female Entrepreneurs Program, and supported by some of the world’s most successful tech companies including Amazon, Canva, Cisco, Google and Atlassian. 

The program also features some of Australia’s leading business women including MammaMia’s Mia Freedman, Future Women’s Helen McCabe, celebrated Indigenous tech entrepreneur Mikeala Jade of Indigital and Youtube star, Georgia Productions.

The program is consistent with the Women in STEM Decadal Plan which aims to attract more women and girls to STEM and provide an environment for them to thrive and progress.

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