In the past week there has been media attention around Victoria’s proposal to crack down on gender role play and fairy tale stereotypes in a bid to combat domestic violence.
No more Cinderella being whisked off her feet from a life of poverty and into the arms of her Prince Charming. No more Snow White being woken by a kiss by the man of her dreams. Fairy tales served a purpose to entertain children, but subconsciously can reinforce a gender stereotype.
In generations gone by, girls played with dolls and enjoy reading books, while boys played with cars and building blocks while generally enjoying science at school. Whichever side of the fence you sit on regarding gender stereotypes, the debate raises the issue as to why less women are involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematical-related careers.
Data from the 2014 federal Education and Training Department shows that 57 per cent of men (that is 17,844 males) are employed in STEM academic and research-only positions, while only 43 per cent of women (13,488 females) are in the same field.
According to the federal government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, only one-in-four IT graduates, and fewer than one-in-10 engineering graduates are women.
A report by the Professionals Australia, shows that across the nation 18.6 per cent of boys undertook STEM subjects in their final year of schooling compared with 13.8 per cent of girls.
Why? Is it a lack of female role models in the STEM field? Is it because girls aren’t interested in pursuing traditionally male-dominated careers?
On page 9 of today’s edition of The Examiner, you will read that Fairfax Media, the publisher of this masthead, has partnered with the Tech Girls Movement to encourage girls to take up opportunities in STEM-related fields. Just as reading and writing are paramount in an education, so too is STEM, which will help shape our future in agriculture, health, engineering and IT.
The University of Tasmania’s School of Engineering and ICT will play an important role in increasing the number of girls in STEM careers and is no doubt predicting the growth in this area with a new science and technology precinct for Hobart, as well as the introduction of associate degrees in the North. We must encourage our future young leaders to explore the STEM world and broaden their skills.