The Australian Government has established the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants to encourage greater participation and leadership of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and entrepreneurship fields.
The latest round of funding was recently announced, and the University of Wollongong (UOW) was one of the successful applicants. The University was awarded $997,891 for its program LIFT, which iAccelerate Director Dr Tamantha Stutchbury and Professor Danielle Skropeta from the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health lead.
The LIFT program aims to support women pursuing careers in STEM and Entrepreneurship and focuses on mentoring, networking, and skill-building opportunities.
“Our program is a three-way academia-industry-community partnership aimed at creating a sustainable, long-term increase in women’s participation, employability, retention and leadership within STEM and entrepreneurship careers. We want to empower women from the Illawarra to rise to new heights while influencing future generations of female trailblazers,” Dr Stutchbury said.
The LIFT program is based on the transformative principle of ”lift as you climb”, involving diverse, intersectional relationships, respecting and empowering others, looking for mutually beneficial connections, passing along opportunities, and facilitating mentorships and networking opportunities.
Professor Danielle Skropeta explains that for years, there’s been a stark difference in interest and confidence in STEM between boys and girls, with few girls actively participating in primary school maths, coding and robotic events.
“We urgently need to turn around the 40-year ongoing decline in school engagement in science for Year 10 onwards, where Australia is ranked 86th globally. These numbers are even lower in women from diverse backgrounds and those facing intersectional challenges. Our LIFT program will work collaboratively to attract and include women from these underrepresented groups,” Professor Skropeta said.
The 2022 STEM Equity Monitor, prepared by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, shows that there is still a significant disparity between men and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to the report, women comprise only 36 per cent of university enrolments in STEM courses and 27 per cent of the workforce across all STEM industries.
Additionally, the report highlights that women entrepreneurs and founders face a number of barriers to success, including limited access to funding for their start-ups, a lack of resources and support to help them grow their businesses, and a lack of supportive networks.
This is reflected in the fact that only 23 per cent of senior management positions and 8 per cent of CEOs in STEM-qualified industries are held by women. The report shows that there is a need to address these barriers and to promote greater gender equity in STEM industries.