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Code for Victoria II to place female tech talent in government departments to improve public services

Promising women designers, programmers, and user experience experts will be given the opportunity to effect change within Victoria’s public sector thanks to a $450,000 investment from the state government into Code for Australia.

The organisation, which works with government to develop tech-based solutions to solve civic problems, will use the funding to place nine women from its Innovation Fellowship program into three government departments through the Code for Victoria II – Women in Tech program, allowing them to showcase their skills while at the same time improving government services through technology.

Gavin Jennings, Special Minister of State, said, “The [program] will ensure the brightest and best women coders and technologists get their chance to work alongside our public servants to improve government services.”

The fellows will receive a full-time salary through the six month program. Funded through the $11 million Public Sector Fund, the Women in Tech program is the second Code for Victoria initiative.

Among other innovations, the first run of the program saw the development of an SMS reminder system to help connect those seeking legal aid to the department by reminding them of appointments, as well as a new biodiversity atlas app for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

As well as improving government services, managing director of Code for Australia, Alvaro Maz, said the program is looking to increase the role of women in tech.

“This is also about helping to break down barriers in the tech sector by boosting female participation. Currently just 20 per cent of tech workers are women compared to 46 per cent amongst the broader Victorian workforce,” he said.

“Victoria produces more IT graduates than anywhere else in Australia. However to remain number one, we need to ensure more women get into this growing sector and with this program we are doing just that.”

According to the latest Startup Muster survey, 23.5 percent of Australian startup founders are women, up from 17.4 percent in 2015, however the number of women employed by startups is low, with 47.5 percent of startups not employing any women at all.

The Victorian government has been making a concerted effort when it comes to gender equality, developing a Gender Equality Strategy for the state and Premier Daniel Andrews declaring in 2015 that women will make up at least 50 percent of all government boards.

Taking this further, the government is focusing its funding efforts for tech conferences and events on those that promise a gender split of at least 50/50 for speakers and panellists, with Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis last year announcing he had pulled funding promised to StartCon to bring the conference to Melbourne as the organisers could not guarantee an even split of speakers.

Image: Gavin Jennings. Source: Code for Australia.