Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Solving the Gender Equation

Credit: momius/Adobe

Credit: momius/Adobe

By Bruce Godfrey

The SAGE program aims to engender balance in STEM professions.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

We know that the engineering, technology and science professions have a very serious problem with gender balance – or rather the absence of anything approaching equality.

Australian women obtained more than 60% of undergraduate degrees in 2013. However, fewer than 10% of those employed in this country as engineers are women. There is change, but the rate is glacial.

Worldwide, women accounted for less than one-third of those employed in scientific R&D in 2014. In Australia, the science and technology picture for women is no better.

So what are we going to do about it? And yes, by we, I do mean that men who have built satisfying STEM and non-STEM careers using STEM skills need to take responsibility and lead from the front.

The first challenge is to begin to dismantle the structural barriers that block women’s progress. Such barriers can include all-male executive teams, outdated views about women in STEM (e.g. assuming that career progression is not a priority), or promotion policies that don’t take into account the breaks that women may need to have children or for family reasons.

The structural barriers are, in turn, underpinned by backward cultural assumptions that can, in the worst case, justify or even validate sexual harassment. An article in The Observer in Britain in July reported how the hierarchy, working environment and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.