The gender imbalance in the study of subjects like science, mathematics and computer sciences & technology – with more males than females enrolling in these courses – is a constant concern to educators, governments and business and industry in Australia, as it is in other countries.
Boys make up the largest number of students taking courses in the sciences, maths and IT at schools across Australia, just as they do in the higher education sector at universities and TAFE colleges.
So, does this limit the career choices and employment opportunities for young women? Maybe. Particularly at a time when the advances in areas like technology and the sciences are seeing business and industry relying more and more on technology for competitive advantage and success in their business.
What’s more, this is at a time when – in many areas of business today – there’s a shortage of graduates with IT skills to meet a growing demand from employers. The gender imbalance is stark as there are currently many more men than women working in IT.
Educators and others have frequently expressed concern that by not studying subjects like maths, science or technology, young women are limiting their future career choices.
STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths
The education institutions, encouraged by government at federal and state levels, are always looking at ways to attract more women to the STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Industry and business is also keen to see more women studying these subjects, as the workforce demand for graduates in these fields continue to increase significantly. The demand for science, technology and maths graduates will only increase even more, particularly with the growing importance of technology to business and industry.
According to a recent media report, students at one university (both male and female) have rejected science and maths as a subject of choice because it is ‘boring and hard’.
Nationally, it was interesting to observe that participants in a recent television program on science, lamented what they considered was a decline in government funding for scientific research and insufficient attention given to the importance of science and technology to Australia’s economic future.
In the higher education sector, one might consider whether the introduction of courses in the Life Sciences by a number of our universities, may be attracting more women who would have turned their back on doing a course in Science.
As opposed to a ‘pure’ science course, Life Sciences, as Wikipedia describes, comprises the fields of science “involving the scientific study of living organisms – microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings”.
Bachelor of Life Sciences
Yet another university, The University of New South Wales (UNSW), has now introduced a new Bachelor in Life Sciences course to be offered in the 2015 academic year.
The degree will cover complementary subjects like:
- marine science
Other universities offer similar courses. Of course, as UNSW points out, you can include maths and physical sciences as an elective as part of the Life Sciences degree.
Importantly, a Life Sciences degree and the gaining of qualifications in one of the fields covered by the course, will open up a much broader range of career opportunities for all students – male and female!