StartupAUS, the top non-profit looking to transform Australia through techpreneurship, and the ACS, the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector, have both welcomed the Labor Party’s Girls into Code initiative which would see a $4.5 million grants program supporting organisations that promote, encourage and inspire girls into learning code if they win the next election.
Recently announced, Girls into Code is the latest policy announcement by the Opposition as part of a suite of measures it proposes to implement to position Australia as a leading knowledge economy.
Last month Labor announced a policy proposing a Startup Year at university, aimed at assisting young Australians who are looking to start their own enterprise.
StartupAUS is happy about Girls into Code
CEO of StartupAUS, Peter Bradd, said Labor’s latest initiative was very welcome as a way of addressing the underrepresentation of women in Aussie tech and innovation.
“As outlined in our Crossroads 2015 report, it is estimated that an additional 35,000 ICT professionals will be needed over the next three years, which is three times the projected number of domestic ICT graduates from Australian universities over that period.
“Further to this, Australia has a chronic shortage of women graduating with computer science or coding skills. Since 2001, the rate of women enrolling in an IT degree has fallen from about one in four to just one in ten.
“StartupAUS is focused on addressing two core areas if we are to create a strong digital economy of the future – that is talent and capital.
“Anecdotally there’s a large number of entrepreneurs in Australia with viable business ideas but with no capacity to implement them in software.
“Whilst they can succeed by outsourcing the technical skills required, they do face great challenges compared to entrepreneurs with coding skills who can build the first iterations of their product at zero cost. Therefore, Labor’s policy will not only spur a more skilled workforce but a more gender diverse one.
“StartupAUS believes improving rates of participation by women in technology jobs, starts by capturing girls’ interest from an early age, having great role models and clearly depicting the diverse career paths that provide plentiful opportunities for girls.
“We are looking forward to continuing our working relationship with all major parties and are excited to be part this new era of thinking. The focused initiatives by Labor highlight some great policies and programs to help transform Australia into an innovation hub.
“It is through the creation of a thriving, diverse tech and innovation hub, that we can begin to compete on a global scale and attract and retain innovation talent,” Peter said.
The ACS is happy about Girls Into Code too
ACS President, Brenda Aynsley OAM, said Labor’s grants of up to $150,000 would significantly contribute to encouraging more young girls to study computer science and other tech based courses.
“Organisations like Code Club Australia, Code Like a Girl, Robogals, Code Camp, Tech Girls Movement and CoderDojo do great work. It’s wonderful to see the Labor Party recognise and support their efforts so that they can scale up their activities across the country and boost girls’ participation in tech.
“All the research suggests that by the time girls reach 15 many of them have either dismissed or not even considered the option of a career in ICT.
“One of the key reasons is the lack of opportunity to engage in computing science, either through the curriculum or through extra curricula activities.
“Feedback from groups such as Code Club and others suggests that once girls are given the opportunity to do coding they generally have a strong aptitude for it and excel.
Brenda echoed StartupAUS’ Peter, pointing out too that Australia has a chronic shortage of women graduating with computer science or coding skills and highlighting once again that since 2001, the rate of women enrolling in an IT degree has fallen from about one in four to just one in ten.
She went on to cite Australia’s Digital Pulse, a report by Deloitte Access Economics and the ACS, which found this year that by 2020, Australia will need an extra 100,000 workers if it is to keep pace with rising demand for ICT skills.
“Only 28 per cent of the IT workforce is comprised of women so it is essential on both skills grounds and from the diversity argument that the participation of women in ICT is increased.
“Therefore, it’s critical to capture the interest of girls as early as possible, by teaching coding and computational thinking in every primary and secondary school in Australia.
“A very important, even vital aspect of this latest Labor policy is to upskill 25,000 Australian teachers to ensure they are well versed in the latest ICT teaching techniques. This is strongly supported by ACS and has been for many years.
“Having inspiring ICT teachers educating our future generations will help our young people, and particularly our young women, see the exciting opportunities that exist for ICT professionals in every sector of the economy.
“Without a significant increase in the number of women studying ICT and technology based courses, Australia runs the risk that it will not have the skills base to fully capture the significant opportunities and benefits being created by digital technologies,” Brenda said.