Female participation in school computing: reversing the trend

Australia’s economy is on an exciting journey. It is transitioning from the resources-driven industries that have sustained it through the last decades towards innovation powered by digital technologies. As Australia enters the cusp of a new era, it has to be all-hands on deck.  Australia cannot steer this massive ship with half of its hands only.  For Australia to succeed on this exciting quest, boys and girls alike have to have an opportunity to participate. There is a solid business case for being more gender-inclusive. Studies have shown organisations that proactively engage women at all levels – from leadership down to operational levels – have delivered more positive outcomes – more profits, more productivity—than organizations that don’t. Ironically, women continue to be under-represented in the economy and more prominently in the technology sector. This phenomenon is true across most developed economies in the world. With the IT skills shortage worldwide, Australia cannot be complacent in encouraging and incentivising its female population to actively participate in the exciting digital economy. Australia is not immune to the worldwide affliction of women staying away from STEM courses that underpin future STEM-related careers.  Pro-active initiatives and programs that engage girls as early as possible and that sustain their interests in STEM from primary to secondary and all the way through to tertiary education are more important than ever.  A lot of the studies on female participation in STEM and in technology in particular are primarily US-based.  Hence it is imperative that an Australian study be conducted in order to tackle the root causes of the problem. Digital Careers, with its mission to engage young minds towards Australia’s Digital Future, has proactively sought the support of industry leaders such as Intel Australia and leading academics in investigating the issue of girls’ participation in the computing field.  This study is an important step into this direction and offers practical insights into tackling the issues at hand. Digital Careers has already begun to incorporate the findings of this study towards making its student activities more gender inclusive. It is our hope that by publishing it, other activity providers and policy makers will find useful insights for student-oriented Digital Technologies activities.

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