Federal Government documents show $16 billion in tech industry-related contracts over $100,000 were in play in FY22, and Girl Geek Academy says this massive financial influence could hold the solution to the lack of “Women in tech” in Australia.
Consultations close today on draft recommendations of Minister Ed Husic's “Diversity in STEM Review” and CEO of Girl Geek Academy, Sarah Moran, says those draft recommendations currently lack an enforcement mechanism for the tech industry to comply.
“The Federal Government holds $16 billion worth of contract 'carrots' that can incentivise the tech industry to deliver gender equality. We need to fix the system, not the girls: it's a billion dollar system and the government has both the power and money to change it," said Moran.
"We’re calling on the Federal Government to ensure tech companies present gender equality action plans before they get access to the government the chequebook: if you want to receive public funds, you need to do the work to support women in the tech industry,” said Moran.
Girl Geek Academy have been working on the issue of gender inequality in tech for almost 10 years, and they say the tech industry is key to driving solutions: but the current draft recommendations have no instrument to ensure it happens.
"We know when times get tough Women in Tech programs are shunted in cost-cutting measures, and yet those same tech companies still get paid from the government purse regardless."
"The government must ensure tech companies aren't perpetuating the very problem the government is trying to solve. Putting gender equality action plans in place before a tech company receives public funding will help us get there, together.”
Girl Geek Academy says spending $16 billion of government funding with IT companies committed to gender equality would help address the fact women make up just 29% of the tech workforce in Australia.
Moran suggests gender equality action plans would also help the government deliver the other draft recommendations put forward in the Diversity in STEM review, such as educational programs in high schools, at universities and during school holidays.
"There's a desperate need for programs supporting young people in schools and universities to join the industry. Leveraging procurement in this way would not only create the financial incentive for industry to get involved, but also create the infrastructure for industry to easily participate in these programs. It's a clear win, win."
Earlier this year Girl Geek Academy surveyed over 300 people in tech and included their feedback in a submission to the Diversity in STEM review called “Enough Talk: Girl Geek solutions for action & investment in gender equity in STEM/ technology”.
At the time Moran said, "Women shared with us so many examples of gender discrimination, unconscious bias and sexual harassment within the technology industry, we only describe it as a widespread, systemic pattern."
"Until now, we have expected women to be “more resilient” or learn to “act like the boys” or to “speak up and make change” in order to make it in a STEM career. But placing the burden on individual women at individual worksites to change things is neither fair nor productive," said Moran.
Girl Geek Academy is a social enterprise dedicated to achieving gender equality in the technology industry. We aim to bring one million women and girls into technology careers by 2030 through a range of programs, most recently teaching A.I. skills to over 1,000 high school girls. We work to tackle structural issues facing women and girls in technology by influencing families, corporations, government, schools, and the tech community. In 2014 we ran the first all-women hackathon in the world, #SheHacks, and our community has been based on making friends in tech globally ever since.
Sarah Moran - 0430 380 180