Remarks by Representative Jenny Bloomfield at SEMICON TAIWAN 2021
Diversity and Inclusion: Supporting a Diverse Workforce in the Semiconductor Industry
29 December 2021
I am delighted to join you today, and to be able to share with you some experiences from Australia on workforce diversity and inclusion, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) fields.
Rapid technological change is driving new workforce needs. The skills required for work have changed, and will continue to evolve even more rapidly, accelerated by the impact of the pandemic. Workers need to be able to augment and develop their skills as technology advances in order to fulfil the jobs of the future. And in this, STEM skills are critical.
This is why Australia is committed to delivering future-focused, flexible and responsive education and training systems, and addressing shortages in key digital skills – such as cyber security, artificial intelligence and machine learning, digital design and advanced mathematics and statistics.
We need these and other skills to address global challenges and safeguard our future prosperity – from accelerating new low-emissions technologies, launching a space industry, and boosting medical manufacturing, to embracing new digital tools and quantum technologies. Australia’s world-class tertiary and vocational education and training system is producing world-class talents, who will thrive in these fields in a rapidly evolving environment.
But we also recognise that diversity is inherently important in our workplaces and in leadership roles. Not only is it right that all of us have the opportunity to excel in careers that match our interests; but a growing weight of evidence suggests that diversity also leads to stronger performance.
Women’s representation is just one strand of diversity, but the one I will focus on today, as we have made great strides in Australia over many years: more than half of our senators are now 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, the National Health and Medical Research Council.
These role models are definitely important, but there is a long way to go. Excluding health, more than one third of men in tertiary education in Australia are studying STEM qualifications. But for women, that figure is only 9 per cent.
The causes of this inequality in participation are complex. Cultural issues, such as bias and stereotyping, shape girls’ views of STEM from an early age. STEM working environments are often male-dominated, with strongly hierarchical natures – and this can support a higher risk of issues such as sexual harassment.
This is why Australia is 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 a variety of STEM careers and role models.
By addressing employment barriers and challenging gender stereotypes – through upskilling, mentorship, and by improving networks and support systems for women in Australia, just as in Taiwan – we can help ensure that all men and women have the opportunity for rewarding jobs that value their talent and skills.
Taiwan is a global powerhouse in the semiconductor and ICT industry, and Australia, as a leading provider of critical minerals and Taiwan’s number one energy provider, is a key partner in these vital fields. Australia and Taiwan’s strong partnership in education, including English language education and skills training; and our close people-to-people links, particularly among our young people, also make us natural partners as we promote a diverse, highly skilled, global workforce that drives these crucial industries forward.
In this Australia-Taiwan Friendship year, and beyond, we look forward to working even more closely together to advance our shared goals and secure our future prosperity.