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Strategic Launch event in Australia on ASEAN Women in Innovation Leadership Dialogue in Jakarta in July 2020


14 November 2019

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Thank you very much Penny and welcome to all of you.

It is a pleasure to speak tonight to a like-minded audience on a subject that is close to my heart: Women in Innovation Leadership.

As many of you will know, I previously announced the establishment of an ASEAN Women in Innovation Leadership Dialogue, which tonight I am confirming I will host in Jakarta in July next year.

The Dialogue will bring together business leaders, policymakers, innovators and influencers and be held as part of the World Economic Forum’s official program at their annual ASEAN meeting.

I am delighted to note that representatives from the Indonesian Government are here tonight – and I would like to thank them for hosting the World Economic Forum next year and providing us all the opportunity to speak about this important topic.  

I am hoping to take a delegation of high-profile Australian science and business leaders with me to showcase our ideas on how to build pathways for innovative women leaders across the region.

The ASEAN region has immense economic potential and it is already a large market for Australian companies.

We have a two-way trade with ASEAN of $110 billion and our relationship is growing ever closer.

The Australian Government is committed to deepening our economic and trade ties with the region. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the 3rd “RCEP” Summit in Bangkok. It was there that 15 of the 16 RCEP countries, including Australia, committed to proceeding to sign a trade deal next year.

To fully unlock the potential that agreements like this present, we need to look more deeply at how these opportunities unlock our human capital … especially innovative women, which is why I am talking to you today.

Women remain under-represented in the global and regional workforce and especially in the industries that will underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

According to a UNSECO report on Girls and Women in STEM in Asia, women hold only 24 per cent of all digital sector jobs, and 30 per cent of jobs in science technology, and innovation research globally.

The Dialogue is the start of a conversation that aims to share the perspectives of government, business and academia as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Tonight is designed as an Australian precursor to the ASEAN Women in Innovation Leadership Dialogue and I want to highlight what Australia will contribute in Jakarta and into the future.

We see the Dialogue as an opportunity to showcase our experiences, provide mutual support in our endeavours with our regional partners, and create partnerships to connect and advance talented women across the Asia-Pacific region.

The Dialogue will provide a platform to explore regional pathways and opportunities to advance women in STEM, business and international entrepreneurship.

It is also about how we as a region can better cooperate. How we can complement our national policies and initiatives to provide pathways for women and girls into innovation leadership.

Success in this endeavour will be of benefit to all of us – both economically and socially.

Technological change, such as robotics, artificial intelligence and automation, is redefining the global economy and the future workforce.

Change is happening at a rapid rate.

This demands a skilled workforce that will drive economic growth into the future. 

The Government is very conscious of the impacts of these developments not just for Australia but for Southeast Asia.

ASEAN nations and Australia will need to promote and drive an innovation mindset by investing in upskilling our workforces.

Skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, play a crucial role in innovation, which is a key driver of economic growth. 

It’s estimated by 2030, we’ll spend 77 per cent more time using science and maths skills in our work than we do today. 

Skills will need to be continually upgraded over a lifetime. Many of the jobs that will need to be filled don’t even exist today.

We will need all the talented people we can muster … and women represent a vast untapped resource in STEM.

As a woman, an engineer and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, I am committed to addressing the challenges facing girls and women in STEM.

I want to see our best and brightest from all backgrounds achieve their full potential.

But the barriers girls and women face in these subjects and careers mean that a special effort needs to be made on their behalf.

This is true for many of the economies in our region, including Australia, irrespective of the culture.

Low representation of women in the STEM skilled workforce not only denies women opportunities, it means that the full innovation potential of our region is not being realised.

Supporting women in STEM and raising a new generation of female entrepreneurs is a continuing focus of the Australian Government.

This is why we have invested in a framework for action that include:

  • the Women in STEM Decadal Plan which sets the direction for all in the STEM sector to take action on gender inequity;
  • the Government’s Advancing Women in STEM strategy, which sets out the Government’s commitment and vision for an Australian society that provides equal opportunity for all people wanting to learn, work and engage in STEM;
  • the Girls in STEM Toolkit, to link girls’ interests to STEM careers and study; and
  • the Appointment of a Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, who is here tonight.

These actions come on top of the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship initiative.

Through this initiative, the Government is investing in measures that encourage more women to study STEM subjects and then choose to stay in STEM research, careers, start-ups and entrepreneurial firms.

This includes supporting $8 million worth of projects under the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship competitive grants program.

A grant from this initiative was awarded to Science & Technology Australia to establish Superstars of STEM, which is increasing the public visibility of women in STEM leaders.
We’re also supporting girls and women to become entrepreneurs.

The Boosting Female Founders Initiative will see $18 million in grants made available over three years from July 2020 - to help startups founded by women access early stage capital and to overcome barriers needed to get their ideas off the ground and go global.

I am optimistic. We are making progress and there is a growing momentum for change.

Barriers that hold women back are gradually being removed, though there is a lot of work still to be done.

Meetings like this and in particular the ASEAN Women in Innovation Leadership Dialogue in Jakarta are important steps in increasing coordination and cooperation for our collective economic future in the region.

I hope a successful Dialogue will ultimately build a collective ambition to improve the opportunity for innovative women leaders across the region.

I look forward to making further progress in Jakarta next year.