In the 2018-19 Federal Budget, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science were allocated $4.5 million over four years under the Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan to formulate a Women in Science Strategy, including a decade long plan for women in science. “If we can increase participation in STEM by girls and women, we will strengthen Australia’s research, scientific and business capability”, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said in a statement.

One of the key initiatives, the Women in STEM Decadal Plan was a request by the Australian Government to the Australian Academy of Science and the Australia Academy of Technology and Engineering to develop a 10-year roadmap for achieving sustained increases in women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in terms of their participation and retention from school and throughout their careers.

Heidi Pass (Chief Geochemist) represented Gold Fields Australia at the public stakeholder meeting for the Australian Academy of Science consultation for the Women in STEM Decadal Plan in Perth in early October.

The decadal plan will be overseen by an Expert Working Group, but will rely heavily on feedback gathered from a broad process of consultation with individuals and organisations throughout Australia who are associated with STEM.

Written submissions were required to address the following questions:

Q1. What changes need to occur to enable more girls and women to participate in STEM education at any level (primary, secondary, tertiary)?

Q2. What are the most effective things we can do to change inaccurate stereotypes about STEM professionals and the range of STEM careers?

Q3. What measures should we be using to determine eligibility for career recognition and progression?

Q4. Australia has more than 330 different initiatives to foster the participation of girls and women in STEM. What type of initiatives are demonstrating the most impact in your area of interest?

Q5. What societal and regulatory issues (i.e. not STEM-specific) will have the greatest impact on women in STEM?

Q6. Progress towards gender equity is STEM will require changes. How do we address the challenges of backlash and resistance to these changes?

Q7. If Australia is to take a strategic approach to improving the participation of girls and women in STEM, where would best effort be placed?

Q8. Is there anything else you have not yet covered in your response which could improve gender equity in STEM?

When Heidi heard of the call for input to the decadal plan, she believed this was an opportunity for Gold Fields Australia, and that the men and women of Gold Fields had meaningful insights into the 8 consultation questions. Heidi coordinated the feedback from key focus groups at each of the Gold Fields Australia Operations and Perth Office and then submitted the collaborative responses on behalf of Gold Fields. The feedback from site was rich in quality information from an equal split of men and women of different ages (21 – 70) from 14 different business areas across the Company.

The graphs below illustrate the diverse group of respondents across the Operations who provided feedback.

As a follow up to the written submission, Heidi attended the interactive stakeholder workshop that focused on providing actions for overcoming barriers that hamper women’s and girl’s full participation in STEM. These workshops and the process of gathering feedback from the working groups on potential solutions will be ongoing. Expected outcomes of the Decadal Plan are:

  • long-term improvements in gender equity
  • improved quality in STEM skills and expertise in Australia
  • Increased access for women and girls to participate in STEM
  • Expanded career and study opportunities for women
  • Benefits to business from increased access to STEM skills

(Pictured left to right Suzy Urbaniak (Expert Working Group member – Women in STEM Decadal Plan), Elissa Edward (Geologist, Sandfire Resources), Dr Heidi Pass (Chief Geochemist, Gold Fields Australia) and Dr Alison Fowler (Acting General Manager, STEM Strategy and Coordination, Science & Innovation)

A huge thank you to Heidi for taking ownership of this process, representing Gold Fields and being such a passionate and inclusive voice for our Company on such a critical issue, affecting the Resources Industry as a whole. Thank you also to Ian Pegg, Leanne Waddell, Elaine Murphy, Gavin Mann, Sri Lloyd and Annika Turnbull, who were vital in the process of coordinating group responses and feedback for the Gold Fields submission.

Gold Fields looks forward to participating and being a strong contributor to the actions resulting from the Women in STEM Decadal Plan. Internally this feedback is being used, in conjunction with the feedback from the Climate Survey to determine the overall Diversity Strategy for the Region, and develop a plan for any changes or actions to address this pressing and industry wide issue.

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