Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future with Jacqueline Harding
In the lead up to AusIMM's International Women's Day Event Series, we asked our 2023 scholarship recipient and Epiroc's Women in Mining Ambassador, Jacqueline Harding, to share her thoughts on this year's UN theme for International Women’s Day, Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future
As a current STEM student, why is this year’s theme so important?
The theme motivates people to discuss new ideas and action transformative change that allows for gender equality in the future. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining momentum and continuous improvements, as change does not happen overnight.
By promoting an equally accessible education system, implementing inclusive technologies, and actively eliminating gender bias in education and the workplace, together we will move towards a gender equal future. It is a topic that must be discussed and taken on board by all to see a positive change.
Globally, women hold only 2 in every 10 science, engineering, information and communication technology jobs. Why do you think access to an inclusive education in STEM is key for future generations to enter mining?
In order to achieve gender equality in the workforce, we need to aim for equal representation from both males and females. Although women are equally as capable as men in STEM subjects, they are largely outnumbered due to several external factors discouraging them from selecting this career pathway.
One of these factors is the education system. Although the access to education is equally inclusive to males and females in Australia, typically females are geared towards artistic topics and degrees from a young age, while males are expected to follow STEM pathways. This is due to outdated gender stereotypes.
As a woman in mining, I have experienced these gender stereotypes all throughout my schooling experience with teachers discouraging me from following the pathway I had chosen, and actively encouraging me along with other female students to go into humanities topics.
To achieve equality for the future generations of mining, children regardless of gender, should be presented with the opportunities available to them in STEM through schooling, and equally encouraged to follow this pathway. I strongly believe that if young females were encouraged to explore a career in mining as a possibility in school, the number of females taking this pathway would increase rapidly.
Equality can only be achieved with bold transformative ideas, inclusive innovation, and lasting solutions – What are your perspectives on this?
People must understand that change does not happen overnight and even if solutions were to be implemented today, we would not expect to see change for decades as the younger generations are educated and move into the workforce. Equality cannot wait any longer and it is important that everyone works together to come up with new and lasting ideas that encourage women specifically to consider STEM subjects to boost the representation to 50/50.
I believe that there are two main aspects in addressing this problem. Firstly, equality must be targeted by ensuring there are no extra barriers for females compared to males in achieving a STEM career. Parents, educators, and employers must actively avoid including gender stereotypes in their roles. This will be a continuous process. Secondly, to address the current situation where women hold only 2 in every 10 STEM jobs, bold transformative ideas, and inclusive technologies must be implemented to specifically target women over men until uniformity is achieved.
Role models are so important for future generations and new professionals to enter a career in mining. Is there someone who has inspired you?
Guiding females towards STEM subjects including mining will have a snowball effect. As women see other women follow this pathway, they will realise its attractiveness and have access to role models that they are able to follow. This will also deepen the discussion around scientific and mathematical topics in female friendship groups and cause normalisation.
Being born to a family of various scientists, I had several role models around me growing up. Although I never recognised someone specifically as my one role model or mentor, these people always encouraged me to consider studying a scientific or engineering degree and it was considered very ‘normal’ and ‘achievable’... in fact this was to the point that a STEM degree was considered the bare minimum, if others could do it, so could I. Although I faced many barriers through schooling and other external factors, I was always able to look up to those surrounding me and reminded of my capability to follow in their footsteps.
The importance of a role model for me is to see someone doing exactly what you want to do and believing that if they managed to do it, you could too. Role models are also able to provide advice and encouragement to new professionals and help them build a network.