Could women in STEMM lead Victoria's COVID recovery?

Could women in STEMM lead Victoria's COVID recovery?

Victoria’s Higher Education Minister joined other high-profile leaders at RMIT’s Women in Vocational Education Conference last week, sharing industry insights with a focus on STEMM.

Presenting at the virtual event, Victorian Minister for Training and Skills and Minister for Higher Education, The Hon. Gayle Tierney MP, told attendees that women had borne the brunt of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Victoria, the rate of female job loss in July alone was almost five times the rate for men.

“Many female-dominated industries such as accommodation and food services, and arts and recreation, have been among the hardest hit by job losses during the pandemic,” she said.

She made it clear that any economic recovery needed to realise the importance of getting more women back into the workforce, particularly in STEMM industries.

“This recovery will not happen unless it includes jobs for women who represent enormous but largely untapped potential in Victoria,” she said.

She said there were many talented girls and women who were interested in pursuing a career in STEMM-related fields and they represented an opportunity to ensure Victoria had the skilled workers needed for the future.

“Women can and should be at the forefront of our efforts to meet this demand.”

Victorian Minister for Training and Skills and Minister for Higher Education, The Hon. Gayle Tierney MP.

RMIT Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean also addressed the audience, along with Vocational Education Deputy Vice-Chancellor Mish Eastman, and Dean of Diversity and Inclusion for STEMM, Professor Kay Latham.

A panel comprised of Michelle Wade, South Asia Commissioner for Global Victoria, Soula Bennett, Director of Quantum Victoria, Asha Kanwa, CEO Commonwealth of Learning in Canada, and Neha Dubli, Senior Manager of Practice Improvement at Mount Sinai Health System in New York was moderated by RMIT CFO Kate Koch.

Panel members shared stories from their personal career journeys, including overcoming adversity, and discussed opportunities for women in industry and the current and future state of play.

Eastman said the event showcased the increasing opportunities available to women in previously male-dominated fields but said that while progress was being made, it was not happening fast enough.

“We are seeing a shift in the scales as more and more women emerge not only as participants, but leaders in every field that has previously been male dominated,” Eastman said.

“That is why events like these are vital to ensure we have our finger on the pulse, that we remain connected and grow our networks, and that we broaden our collective capacity and advocacy for gender equality.”

She said along with a dedicated government investment in STEMM, there was a growing awareness and appetite for the benefits of gender balance in these sectors. 

“Excitingly, RMIT has just been announced as the seventh national node for Industry 4.0 – putting us in a position to lead in future technologies, advanced manufacturing and 3D printing, to name a few.”

Mish Eastman RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Vocational Education, Mish Eastman.

RMIT has furthered its commitment to improving outcomes for women in STEMM in recent years.

The University recently announced a partnership with Siemens to deliver a Digital Industrial Innovation Hub that will allow female STEMM students access to an advanced apprenticeship-style, dual-sector Associate Degree in Digital Technologies.

In 2019, the University received an Athena SWAN bronze accreditation for its commitment to gender equality.

Part of the requirement of this accreditation was the creation and regular review of a Gender Equality Action Plan, and the University is now reporting on gender equality at unprecedented levels, allowing it to make highly informed decisions to deliver gender equality for staff and students.


Story: Finn Devlin

06 October 2020


06 October 2020


  • Student experience
  • Science and technology
  • Industry
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Future World of Work

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