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Politics

Science sector waits for government response to diversity review as minister Ed Husic tinkers with its findings

- May 31, 2024 3 MIN READ
Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith
Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith
Nearly four months after the landmark Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review, handed its final recommendations to industry and science minister Ed Husic and his department, the sector is still waiting for a formal response from the government.

But this week, Husic implemented the first change in the wake of the report, calling time on the federal Women in STEM ambassador program, launched by the former Coalition government in 2018.

Astrophysicist Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith finished in the role after 5.5 years at the end of May.

The Australian Government recognises the significant contribution of the Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith and her office to advancing gender equality in STEM in Australia.

Since 2018, Prof Harvey-Smith and her office have contributed research, tools, and resources to help break down structural barriers that prevent women and girls from participating in STEM education and careers.

Industry and science minister Ed Husic said the Women in STEM Ambassador functions will be amalgamated into other programs.

“Professor Harvey-Smith’s work has been important in helping us understand how to support more girls and women to thrive in STEM,” he said.

“Following the release of the independent Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review final report earlier this year, the government is focused on improving our suite of programs to support more underrepresented groups to pursue STEM education and careers.”

The government committed $38 million in the federal Budget earlier this month to Diversity in STEM programs, including $8.5 million to increase the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants for projects that support women, including First Nations women, women from regional and rural locations, and non-binary people.

But there’s still no timeframe for when the government will respond to the Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review, led by Sally-Ann Williams from Cicada Innovations, which handed down its final recommendations in February with a media release from Husic saying only that the government will “respond in due course”.

Minister Husic’s office did not respond to Startup Daily’s request for clarification on a time frame.

Prof. Harvey-Smith said the work done under the Women in STEM program will live on thanks to support from UNSW and the University of Sydney.

“We will keep Future You available online for schools and individuals to use free of charge. We are currently exploring funding opportunities that will enable us to continue expanding the program,” she said.

“Thanks also to the support of UNSW Sydney, the STEM Equity Evaluation Portal and gender equity research and reports we have created will remain available for use by the community. You can find all our resources on this legacy website.

Harvey-Smith said will remain dedicated to advancing gender equity in STEM through research and programs as a Professor of Practice at UNSW Sydney and has now taken a job as CEO of Out For Australia, which helps LGBTQIA+ people to thrive at work in the formative stages of their career.

She listed the achievements of the ambassador program, including direct engagement with more than 100,100 parents, teachers and students, alongside more than 200 regional and remote schools and communities receiving Future You stories through a partnership with Deadly Science..

“Since December 2018 we’ve worked closely with governments, peak bodies, industry organisations, businesses and educators to drive evidence-based policy, practices and initiatives to remove barriers to participation in STEM. During this time, the number of women working in STEM-qualified occupations in Australia has risen from 178,959 to 247,495, an increase of 38%,” she said.

“We have engaged with more than 286,568 unique participants during 936 hours of outreach and engagement and reached a collective audience of 107 million people through a total of 2845 media appearances.

“I’m enormously proud of what we have achieved, and the impact our work will continue to have on the sector.”