Getting girls into maths and STEM

In Year 12, only 6.8 per cent of girls take advanced mathematics, compared with 13.4 per cent of boys, while at university female students account for only a third of mathematics undergraduates and less than a quarter of academic and research staff in mathematics are women.

In Year 12, only 6.8 per cent of girls take advanced mathematics, compared with 13.4 per cent of boys, while at university female students account for only a third of mathematics undergraduates and less than a quarter of academic and research staff in mathematics are women. To address this imbalance, CHOOSEMATHS and Science 50:50 are creating mentoring programs which will work to connect role models and mentors with young women to encourage them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).


At a dinner held last December at the University of New South Wales for an audience of professionals working in academia or Maths and STEM related organisations, the Executive Director of CHOOSEMATHS, Associate Professor Inge Koch, and Professor Veena Sahajwalla from Science 50:50 explored the gender divide overshadowing Australia’s STEM pipeline. With both programs launching mentoring programs in 2017, the dinner conversation was an opportunity for attendees to discuss how girls could pursue and excel in STEM pathways and network with others who share this goal. Mentors for the 2017 programs are now being sought.

Fortunately, there are professional development opportunities available to assist teachers to create schools based STEM programs and resources available to provide program ideas. The best way to find out about upcoming training opportunities and some of the recent STEM programs underway in NSW is via the NSW Department of Education’s STEM website.

Here you will find best practice examples of integrated STEM learning and design thinking approaches that have been successfully used in the classroom. Discover the kinds of topics and activities that can be included in STEM programs and see how they can help prepare students for the future workplace in terms of both technical and communication skills. There are also examples of how flexible learning spaces can help students better collaborate and communicate their ideas, building critical interpersonal skills.

Best practice approaches to STEM learning include:


CHOOSEMATHS is a partnership between the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) and the BHP Billiton Foundation. Working with students, parents and teachers, the project aims to turn around community attitude and participation in mathematics and statistics as a career choice, especially for girls and young women.

The five-year national initiative will contribute to the health of the mathematics pipeline in Australia from school through university and out to industry and the workplace by:

  • Providing professional development and school support in 120 schools across Australia;
  • Hosting the annual CHOOSEMATHS Awards for excellence;
  • Developing a national mathematical career awareness campaign to highlight the interesting careers that exist for mathematically capable graduates; and
  • Creating an “Inspiring Women in Mathematics network” and mentor program.

In 2017, CHOOSEMATHS will commence building a community of ‘passionate professionals’ whose achievements in STEM inspire. Drawn from business and academia as well as university students, these inspiring role models will help support, advise and motivate young women pursuing studies and careers in mathematics.

Lee Turnley, a research engineer at Boeing Research and Technology Australia and a careers ambassador for CHOOSEMATHS says, “My Year 11 Chemistry teacher, Miss Kropp, helped grow my love of the sciences. She had worked for a little while in industry so had a lot of great stories about work life and being a science graduate. I thought it all sounded incredible and I could see a lot of myself in her.”

Get Involved – Mentoring 2017

Are you studying mathematics at university or using mathematics in your career? Are you passionate about maths and want to help inspire the next generation? To stay informed about upcoming opportunities to be part of the role model and mentoring network, please contact the CHOOSEMATHS Women in Mathematics Network coordinator Julia Collins.

Learn more about CHOOSEMATHS

What is Science 50:50?

Science 50:50 is a program that aims to inspire Australian girls and young women to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology, so they can succeed in an innovation-driven future. Science 50:50 makes the simple point – since half the population is female, why not half the scientists and technologists? By informing and engaging young women with the power of science and technology to solve complex problems and transform lives – and by introducing them to Australian scientists and innovators who are doing just that – Science 50:50 can help recalibrate the gender balance.

Science 50:50 is led by UNSW ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Veena Sahajwalla, who is driving innovation to create new ‘green’ materials. Science 50:50 is supported by Professor Sahajwalla’s Georgina Sweet Fellowship and UNSW Australia.

Science 50:50 aims to build a network of speakers and mentors for female students across Australia’s science and technology industries. This mentoring program is an avenue for high school girls to ask career related questions and for career advice from some fantastic mentors working in diverse STEM related roles. In 2016 the initiative had over 30 mentors answering girls’ STEM careers questions. In 2017 there will be capacity to develop the program to incorporate some real-time activities (for the mentors who have capacity) along with the online e-mentoring program.

Get Involved – Mentoring 2017

Established scientists or those working in a STEM industry who are interesting in mentoring an aspiring young scientist are also encouraged to be part of the Science 50:50 and the mentoring program for 2017. To be considered as a mentor, please contact the Science 50:50 Program Support Sally Forbes.

Learn more about Science 50:50