Australian Office

Remarks by Australian Representative Jenny Bloomfield at SEMICON TAIWAN 2022 - Workforce Development Program: Women in Semiconductors Seminar







It is a pleasure to join you at SEMICON Taiwan again this year, and to address the very important topic of ‘Unleashing the Potential of Women’s Leadership’, and a separate session yesterday on ‘Sustainability’.

In a message at last night’s SEMICON Taiwan Leadership Gala Dinner, the President and CEO of SEMI Ajit Manocha identified two key challenges in ensuring the future success of the semiconductor industry: Talent, and Sustainability.  Talent and sustainability are critical issues for Australia, Taiwan, and the world, as we all transition to a clean energy future.

At last year’s SEMICON Taiwan, I was pleased to share some experiences from Australia on workforce diversity and inclusion, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

I said at that time that rapid technological change was driving new workforce needs. The skills required for work have changed, and continue to evolve even more rapidly, accelerated by the impact of COVID. Workers need to be able to augment and develop their skills in order to fulfil the jobs of the future - and in this, STEM skills are critical.

Earlier this month, we in Australia held a national Jobs and Skills Summit to discuss the significant challenges facing industry, workers, businesses and economies – including skills shortages, security of supply chains, pressures in the care and community sectors, and structural barriers that deny women equality in opportunity, in pay, and in financial security.

There was a very strong consensus that if we are to unlock new growth opportunities to ensure our future prosperity, all people needed to be empowered to fully participate in careers in every part of our society and economy.

We need to increase women’s workforce participation to make better use of the available talent pool and utilise the massive potential that remains untapped.

As Australian economist and CEO of the Grattan Institute Danielle Wood memorably said at the Summit, “I can’t help but reflect that if untapped women’s workforce participation was a massive ore deposit, we would have governments lining up to give tax concessions to get it out of the ground”.

Australia’s Minister for Women added that, “As a country we simply can’t afford to leave women’s talent on the shelf. If women’s workforce participation matched [that of] men, we would increase GDP by 8.7% or $353 billion by 2050″.

We know that education - and translating this into economic opportunities - plays a critical role in helping break down gender barriers and increasing women’s participation.

Women can also excluded from full time work or high-paid leadership roles because these are incompatible with the load of unpaid work that is still disproportionately performed by women. So parental leave arrangements, childcare and early learning investments, and encouraging men to take part in unpaid care, are critical in driving the societal change that enables women’s full and equal participation.

Diversity is inherently important in our workplaces and in leadership roles - not only because it is right that all of us have the opportunity to excel in careers that match our interests, but also because diversity leads to stronger performance.

In Australia we have made great strides over many years: 57 per cent of our senators and 38 per cent of house of representative members are women; 10 out of 23 cabinet ministers are women; more than a third of the largest companies’ directors are women; we have a female Chief Scientist; and many leading science roles are now occupied by women, such as the heads of the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

But while these role models are vitally important, there is still a long way to go. For example, only 9 per cent of women in tertiary education in Australia are studying STEM qualifications, compared to over one third of men.

There are complex factors at the heart of this inequality in participation. Cultural issues such as bias and stereotyping can shape girls’ views of STEM at a young age. STEM work environments are often male-dominated, and this can support a higher risk of issues such as sexual harassment.  

This is why we in Australia are taking action on a number of different levels: supporting and empowering girls at an early age; addressing organisational and structural inequities; and increasing the visibility of STEM careers and role models.

This includes the work of Australia’s Ambassador for Women in STEM, who conducts outreach to mobilise Australia’s business leaders, educators and policy makers to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM by eliminating barriers to attract, retain and progress them in STEM study and careers; and provides resources to ensure parents, educators, students and workplaces create a sustainable and equitable future.

Taiwan is a leader in gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as global powerhouse in the semiconductor and ICT industry.  And Australia is a key partner in these vital fields, including as Taiwan’s largest energy provider and leading critical minerals supplier.

Our strong partnership in education, including English language education, VET, and talent and skills training – building on our close youth and people-to-people links - also make us natural partners in developing the diverse, highly skilled, global workforce of men and women that we need to drive these crucial industries forward.

In this Australia-Taiwan Friendship year and beyond, we look forward to working even more closely together to promote equal opportunity for all, to advance our shared goals and secure our future prosperity.

Thank you very much.