Intervention is needed in high school, if not before, to increase the number of women in cyber security and STEM careers, Charles Sturt University’s Tanveer Zia said.
Associate professor Dr Zia recently launched a series of Girls in Cyber Security Advancing workshops to encourage high school girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths.
Project leader Dr Zia said something needed to be done to address the declining rates of women in STEM fields and it needed to be done early.
“Women’s attrition from STEM and [Information and Communications Technologies] in Australia begins in primary school,” he said.
“Women account for only one in four ICT university graduates, a proportion that has been steadily declining since 2001.
“To address this decline, we need to start at the high school level at a minimum.”
A recent University of Sydney study found students, especially girls, ‘switch off’ during the middle school years.
The report, released last week, showed despite both genders initially having the same level of maths aspirations, the girls’ aspirations declined more rapidly than their male counterparts.
Dr Zia said the GiCSA workshops, to be held in Albury-Wodonga and Wangaratta, aimed to engage, or re-engage, female students before they chose their HSC or VCE subjects.
“It will provide awareness of cyber security related careers, the importance of female participation in this area, and help inspire young girls into this field,” he said.
The project will run over two years, featuring cyber security awareness and training workshops, a cyber security challenge, and leadership and entrepreneurship workshop.