The case for making maths mandatory in high school

The STEM field – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – has long had an issue in attracting women.

The statistics remain grim.

is failing to achieve anything close to a diverse pipeline within the technology sector – participation of women has decreased in the past 20 years.

Women now make up less than 20 per cent of university enrolments in STEM degrees – and fewer are actually graduating.

The pool is so small that it makes it hard to see how we are ever going to achieve a gender diverse workforce.

We have to increase the pipeline.

In February, I will be hosting a forum to have a frank and open discussion about how we can collaborative to improve gender diversity in the tech sector within .

Pleasingly, I have the support of most of the ASX100 CIOs.

A few of the ideas I want to share include how we make technology more appealing to girls at a young age.

First, we can do this through our education system.

Primary education needs to be reworked to cultivate an interest in technology at a young age.

Maths needs to be fun.

Teachers should be encouraging young girls through hands-on workshops and bringing in female role models to spark their interest.

Secondary education has to contemplate making general mathematics mandatory.

Young girls and their parents are choosing to drop maths in year 10 without truly understanding the impact of the decision.

Without maths the option to enter into a STEM degree is removed.

Industry, corporate and government need to come together to support apprenticeships or industry-based learning programs – for girls.

We have to be able to “pull” women into the pool through support.

The second big part of the equation is role models.

This starts at home.

Parents need to be educated on the career possibilities for their daughters within technology, and talk to them at a young age.

In April, Tabcorp commissioned Galaxy Research to do a national study of more than 1000 ns aged 20 to 35.

As Fairfax Media reported, it found that 65 per cent say their parents influenced their choice to study or work in STEM.

Only 31 per cent said their parents inspired them to go ahead into a STEM career.

The study found that in most cases, women working in STEM follow the footsteps of one or both parents who have worked in these fields.

As an industry we need to show young women that technology is an exciting career.

We need to tap into more female role models in tech who can share their inspirational stories with young girls.

We need to create programs that remove the myth that coding jobs are just for boys.

Young women who are making career decisions aren’t aware of the endless possibilities that exist within technology.

Careers are vast and varied; a user experience designer, a digital developer, a project manager, a scrum master.

There’s much flexibility within tech careers, allowing women to raise families and progress their careers.

Young women really can have it all.

And once we have attracted women we need to retain them.

We need to practise what we preach: Flexible working arrangements, paid maternity leave, and importantly, a culture that truly supports and underpins an environment that supports women.

Organisations that support diversity goals, engender trust and respect, and create a more loyal workforce in the long run.

It is well documented that a gender diverse workforce is strongly correlated with higher returns, profitability and share price.

To have the most talented workforce a business must attract and retain women as well as men.

Technology continues to dominate our lives and is becoming increasingly important in any career.

We have come a long way in terms of equality – but we still have a long way to go.

Increasing the number of women in technology roles requires a systemic change and a collective effort.

Kim Wenn is the retiring CIO of Tabcorp.

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