Diversity the direction for STEM workforce

The final report of the Pathway to Diversity in STEM review warns the work it is based on will be wasted “if people endure bullying, sexual harassment, racism and discrimination in their workplace.”

The report, commissioned by the Commonwealth, was produced by Sally-Ann Williams (Cicada Innovations), Mikaela Jade (Indigital) and Parwinder Kaur (UWA). They propose 11 “structural and cultural” changes to “increase the diversity of Australia’s STEM system,” including:

  • an Advisory Council “with dedicated government resources” to implement a strategy
  • creating “safe and inclusive workplaces” including by changing Commonwealth Government “grants and procurement processes”
  • tertiary education reforms to focus on “underrepresented cohorts” in STEM
  • better practices to elevate First Nations Knowledges.

They make the case on two broad arguments, that skill shortages can be met by encouraging under-represented groups, notably women, into STEM occupations and “a diverse STEM sector brings new perspectives, better problem solving, increased creativity and improved productivity.” 

And all are in the national interest. “Diverse STEM-literate people on boards and in leadership positions across all sectors is critical to ensure good decision-making in an increasingly technologically advanced economy. Retaining these people in these positions is also critical for ensuring that improved decision-making capability builds over the long-term.”

To all of which the STEM community responds with full-throated support.

“To achieve the richness of thought that diversity will bring, we need to work together remove the roadblocks that stop Australians from entering, or remaining in, STEM professions,” says Engineering Australia’s Romilly Madew.

According to Kyiie Walker from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering adopting the report “will help build a better, fairer, and more resilient STEM future for Australia.” ATSE also “welcomes” the recommendation to the learned academies that they “weave Traditional Knowledge into science and research systems.”

Academy of Science president, Chennupati Jagadish backed the report’s “expansive and systematic approach” which “includes not only women and girls, but also First Nations people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people with disability, LGBTQIA+ people, neurodiverse people, people facing age-based discrimination and people living in regional, rural and remote areas.”



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