Australia has a chronic shortage of women graduating with computer science or coding skills. Since 2001, the rate of women enrolling in an IT degree has actually fallen from about 1 in 4 to just 1 in 10.
Continuing to see women fall behind in IT will limit our capacity for all Australians to capture and embrace the opportunities of the digital economy, let alone meet the projected demand for ICT skills across industry. The lack of diversity will also begin to affect our ability to innovate as a nation.
On top of that, women could be left out economically, shut out from influential positions in industry and government due to lack of relevant skills and experience. This will perpetuate the gender gap in Australian IT in which currently:
- Only 28 per cent of workers in the ICT are women
- Only 1 in 5 tech entrepreneurs are women.
It is therefore crucial that young women learn to code and consider careers in ICT as early as possible, so that they have a stake in the digital economy of the future.
That is why Labor will launch Girls into Code – a $4.5 million grants program to support organisations that promote, encourage and inspire girls to learn code.
Improving rates of participation by women in technology jobs involves capturing girls’ interest early, by providing opportunities for them to experience the creative side of ICT as through Carnegie Mellon’s Alice and MIT’s Scratch initiatives. It is also important to highlight role models and demonstrate diverse career paths from a young age, while moving away from stereotypes.
Labor’s Girls into Code grants program will facilitate mentoring and access to role models, connect coding programs to schools, and create opportunities for girls to build up their confidence and showcase their talent in coding and ICT skills.
There are a range of organisations and movements that are doing great work delivering engaging and inclusive programs that inspire young women and girls to code, including Code Club Australia, Code Like a Girl, DigiGirlz and Girls Make Games.
Labor’s Girls into Code will ensure these programs are offered in more places, to more girls so that in the future Australian women are just as equipped to benefit from the jobs of the future as men will be.
More information about Labor’s positive plan is available here.