Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton has reiterated calls for measures to address diversity issues in the STEM workforce.
The recently released Slower Track report found a range of factors disadvantage women in the STEM workforce while the Wasted Potential report highlighted the issues leading to the underutilisation of mature-aged professionals.
While current Government policy initiatives and new funding have centred on securing a strong pipeline of STEM professionals by encouraging women and girls to take up and continue with STEM subjects as part of their education, Walton questioned the sense of doing this without also addressing the issues which disadvantage women when they move from tertiary education into the workforce.
“On International Women’s Day, it’s critical that we highlight this important issue. The Prime Minister’s ideas boom relies on STEM professionals yet our report shows that the sustainability of the workforce is in question with many women leaving because of a range of practices that put them on a slower career track.”
“Diverse teams have been consistently shown to outperform on innovation, problem-solving, flexibility, and decision-making but the report shows that almost a third of professional women working in STEM fields report they will leave their profession within five years. Women remain only 28 per cent of STEM-qualified professionals in the STEM workforce.”
The Wasted Potential report showed that one in five older workers are targeted for redundancy and over half are overlooked for development and training. “At the same time that a Deloitte reports shows a 3 per cent increase in the participation of older workers would increase national income by 1.6 per cent, workers reported that their experience was seen as a cost rather than acknowledged for its capacity to add value, provide savings and drive innovation.”
“We simply can’t afford not to realise our full workforce potential in STEM. These results show we are failing to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM and underutilising our most experienced workers’ wealth of knowledge.”
“We need to urgently look at initiatives at both the policy and workplace levels to lift the participation and retention rates of professional women and mature-aged professionals working in STEM fields not only as an equity and justice issue, but to boost GDP and grow our innovation capability. To do anything else is simply wasting our existing talent and experience.”