Young women are shying away from careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, locking themselves out of the jobs of the future.
Just 48 per cent of Generation Z women (aged 16 to 24) believed they were capable of a STEM career, compared to 54 per cent of men, a new Westpac STEM Careers and Perceptions Report revealed.
To address this, News Corp’s Vogue Australia has partnered with Westpac to deliver Vogue Codes, a series of events designed to inspire and empower women to pursue careers in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry.
Westpac Consumer Division chief information officer Anastasia Cammaroto said there was a misconception that STEM careers were always highly technical despite opportunities being available in sectors from technology and finance to food, fashion and travel.
Just three in 10 workers in STEM roles had a university degree in science, technology, engineering or maths, the Westpac report revealed.
“(Young people) feel if they are going to work in STEM it has to be in coding or cybersecurity and for many that is either unattractive or unachievable — particularly for young women,” she said.
“We need to show women how the skills they already have are what we require.
“Women and men both naturally collaborate, women and men can problem solve, women and men can naturally be creative, but instead of focusing on the fact they have those skills, women tend to focus on whether or not they have the technical skills.”
The report also showed 64 per cent of all Generation Z respondents were concerned they did not have the skills required for their future careers — a figure Mrs Cammaroto called shocking.
Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann said Vogue Codes, in its fourth year, aimed to see women empowered by technology, not disabled by it.
“While the statistics of female participation in tech-related roles and industries are improving, they are still not good enough,” she said.
“Vogue has long celebrated women achieving great personal and professional successes and we hope that by providing a platform for some of the world’s most impressive female entrepreneurs and business leaders we will help to challenge the societal norms.
“Our hope is that a successful career in technology will be something future generations won’t think twice about.”
Anastasia Chzhan has not yet finished school but already sees the different ways boys and girls view STEM.
The figures in the Westpac report do not surprise her.
“I think boys are more confident in going down these pathways than girls are,” she said.
“Also, some employers maybe like to hire males over females.”
Miss Chzhan, in Year 10 at Kogarah High School, is toying with the idea of pursuing a STEM career after graduation.
Her favourite subjects are maths and commerce.
“I like maths because it is straight forward and I am pretty good at it,” she said.
“I want to go to uni but not sure what (I will study).”
She took part in Westpac’s All SySTEMs Go! program last week, spending five days in a team solving a problem using technology then presenting the project to judges.
“I learnt about different jobs that are available and STEM-related careers — it’s not always just about sitting at a computer,” she said.
“There are a lot more opportunities than I thought there were.
“Even if you are afraid (to pursue a career in STEM), go for it because if you don’t try you won’t succeed.”
A Vogue Codes Summit is being held tomorrow at Westpac Barangaroo, Sydney.
Events will also be held at Sydney’s Carriageworks on Saturday and Brisbane’s Rivershed on June 20. For more information, visit vogue.com.au/vogue-codes