Jobs and skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) are at the forefront of demand and growth in Australia and around the world.
But unfortunately women still only make up 16% of those with STEM qualifications. We know that issues with underrepresentation in STEM fields begin in school, with girls feeling less confident in their STEM skills and less likely to study STEM elective subjects. Additionally, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are three years behind their peers in maths and science, making them even less likely to pursue STEM careers.
That’s why we helped create the Girls In STEM Day - a day dedicated to science and technology where students have the chance to meet, learn and work with engineers from across Google.
As part of our inaugural Girls In STEM Day, 30 students and their teachers from Evans High School, Plumpton High School and Doonside Technology High joined us at our Sydney headquarters.
We were keen to provide the students with role models from a variety of STEM fields to help showcase the roles and pathways to careers in technology. After hearing from Mel Silva, Google Australia's Managing Director, and former Doonside student now Googler, Marie White, the students participated in hands-on workshops. They built machine learning models to sort recycling, made biomedical implants from jelly and discussed some of the big ethical questions technologists are facing.
Their excitement and enthusiasm created a huge buzz for the teams after a long break from student visits.
Google engineers who work on a range of our most important products, along with representatives from the Superstars of STEM program, ran interactive and hands-on workshops for students covering machine learning, software engineering, bio-medical and ethical AI workshops - all with the goal of exposing the students to STEM role models and showcasing the breadth of career and study possibilities for their future.
Our event builds on Google’s work helping to develop pathways to STEM careers for communities across Australia. Since 2018, Google has partnered with non-profit Schools Plus to alleviate some of this disadvantage by providing funding for disadvantaged schools around Australia to build capacity in STEM. This includes grants to Balga High School in Perth in 2018, Madison Park Primary School in Adelaide in 2019, and Montello Primary School in Burnie, Tasmania in March 2021.
It’s been extremely rewarding for our teams to watch as the students and teachers involved in this program have built important skills and fallen in love with STEM fields, many going on to achieve recognition for their work. Some of the STEM success stories include Madison Park, which won the Champion’s Award at the South Australia First Lego League Tournament in 2020 and Montello Primary, where STEM teacher Daniel Edwards was Highly Commended in the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools last week.
In 2019, partnering with Schools Plus and the Hon Ed Husic MP, Minister for Industry and Science, Google supported the Colebee Learning Community, a group of 7 schools in Western Sydney to develop STEM capabilities and build a makerspace for the community.
That initial partnership has continued over the past three years with teacher PD workshops, Google for Education sessions and virtual visits for students.
It was an honour to host the students and we hope the STEM workshops open up new possibilities and are just the start of a lifelong pursuit of these important fields.