Charting new territories: skills and future jobs that will take women to new heights

Opening Remarks from the keynote speech by Jason Johnson at the CEW leadership Summit on “Skills and future jobs that will take women to new heights”. These remarks were followed by a panel moderated by Jason with the following leaders:

    • Dr Cathy Foley AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist
    • Professor Lisa Harvey Smith, Women in STEM Ambassador, Australian Government
    • Lula Mohanty, Managing Partner, IBM Consulting, APAC

 

  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) are widely acknowledged as growth sectors and these sectors are playing an increasingly important role in the Australian economy
  • In fact, over the last 50 years much of Australia’s economic growth can be attributed to improvements in the use of capital, labour and technological innovation made possible in large part by STEM
  • Today, advanced sciences underpin 14-26% of Australia’s economic activity
  • As technological change accelerates and computing power increases, STEM capabilities become even more essential to our economic growth
  • In turn this growth will fuel the demand for STEM skills – with the demand for STEM skills now growing 1.5 times faster than ANY other sector!
  • As the leader of an executive search firm, I can attest to the acute demand for experienced executives in the technology sectors including AI, quantum technology, robotics, automation, precision manufacturing and advanced materials
  • Over the last 20 years, we have seen the growth of who new sectors including fintech, med tech, biotech, agri tech, cybersecurity, clean energy, and renewables
  • To meet this economic opportunity Australia must be able to adapt and compete globally meaning we need full attraction, retention and advancement of people in STEM careers
  • However, in Australia today women make up just 28% of management positions in STEM and only account for 8% of CEOs and heads of businesses
  • This underrepresentation has remained persistently low despite having strongly increased representation in STEM studies and nearing 30% representation in STEM careers
  • In other countries increased numbers of women in junior roles has translated to increased senior gender balance – But not in Australia!
  • This must change! We must secure women’s participation in the sectors especially in leadership roles
  • It is an economic imperative for the STEM sectors to draw on all available talent
  • In late 2021 CEW (along with BCG) brought women leaders in STEM together to discuss the barriers and solutions to increasing women’s leadership in these vital sectors – Lisa Harvey Smith – who has kindly agreed to join today’s panel – was integrally involved in that process
  • Sadly, the stories and conversations that were shared through this listening process were quite tragic and both confronting and eye-opening
  • There are clearly some extraordinary examples of female leaders in STEM, including the three amazing women on stage, however it is clear that women face unique and significant challenges to career progression
  • Given the underlying issues facing women leaders it is no surprise that many of them are choosing to opt out of the STEM sectors rather than to pursue careers within the relevant sectors
  • This is clearly unacceptable and unsustainable if Australia is to remain competitive in international markets

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