Much more to be done to improve diversity in STEM

August 15, 2023

The President of the Australian Academy of Science has welcomed the draft recommendations of the Diversity in STEM review, released today by the Australian Government, which highlights the task at hand while showcasing progress made.

Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said we need all the available STEM talent if we are to address the challenges of our time.

“Much work has been done to improve diversity in STEM, but there is much more still to do to deliberately and strategically improve diversity in STEM and ensure we are attracting, training and retaining all of the available talent,” Professor Jagadish said.

In the Academy’s submission, it was strongly recommended that the diversity in STEM review build on the Women in STEM Decadal Plan and its recommendations to take a whole-of-STEM sector approach.

“We have learned much from our work on the Women in STEM Decadal Plan. The Academy is pleased to see the review adopt a similar focus to all dimensions of diversity on leadership, accountability, evaluation, workplace culture, visibility, and education,” Professor Jagadish said.

The review has presented draft recommendations that bring us closer to achieving unified national actions aimed at enhancing diversity in STEM.

The draft review report acknowledges the benefits and impacts of measures that are a direct result of the recommendations in the Women in STEM Decadal Plan, including: the establishment of the STEM Equity Monitor; the Evaluation and Program Implementation tools developed by the Women in STEM Ambassador; and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE)’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The Academy supports recommendations to build on the strong foundations and systemic changes enabled by the Women in STEM Ambassador.

The Academy also supports efforts to expand Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) across STEM including using government funding levers to incentivise transformative and systemic improvements that SAGE accreditation has enabled to date.  

Tools like the STEM Equity Monitor provide valuable data to inform decision-making and should be expanded to give us a comprehensive picture of diversity in STEM in Australia and track progress.

“This review confirms that to break down persistent barriers faced by under-represented communities, the STEM sector —government, academia, educators and industry— needs to push in the same direction and harness the opportunities in the Women in STEM Decadal Plan designed to reach gender equity by 2030,” Professor Jagadish said.

“I wholeheartedly agree that Australia’s diverse population is our strength, and I applaud the focus on maximising participation of underrepresented groups,” he said.

The Academy thanks the panel for their work, and looks forward to assisting the Australian Government to deliver the outcomes when the final report is released.

Academy’s work in diversity

The Australian Academy of Science is a leader in diversity and inclusion. Earlier this year the Academy made a submission to the Diversity in STEM Review.

In 2019, the Academy led the production of the Women in STEM Decadal Plan with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

The Academy founded and helped to establish Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE).

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