BHP Billiton has launched a $22 million partnership with the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute today to multiply the representation of women in the field of mathematics.
CEO Andrew Mackenzie joined AMSI director Professor Geoff Prince, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minster for Education and Training, maths and science teachers and academics in officially launching the Choose Maths program at The University of Melbourne.
The funding will be provided by the BHP Billiton Foundation over five years and will help to influence the perception of mathematics among girls and young women and address a decline in Australians studying maths and entering STEM related careers.
“Australian industry knows that STEM professionals are vital to our future prosperity, national productivity and global competitiveness. For the resources industry this is especially true,” Mr Mackenzie said.
“BHP Billiton employs 123,000 people worldwide, many of them STEM professionals, so we share the responsibility to make sure there is a pipeline of young people who choose to study STEM subjects.
“Any increase in STEM participation is good news but an increase in female representation is especially valuable because of the undeniable benefits of diversity.
“AMSI is a leader in the field of mathematics and I’m proud that we’re partnering in the development of this targeted and holistic program to address the gender dynamic in the teaching and learning of maths.”
Core components of the Choose Maths program include professional development for teachers in 120 schools and additional resources for schools across the country, a national women in mathematics careers awareness campaign, scholarships and networking support for women in maths and an awards program to recognise excellence in teaching and learning.
Prof Prince said the Choose Maths program would draw on research-based strategies to create a pipeline of female talent and help address the gender wage gap.
“The low participation of girls and women in the study of the mathematical sciences and in the quantitative professions is a significant national social and economic challenge,” he said.
“This landmark five-year project, undertaken by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute and funded by the BHP Billiton Foundation, aims to build self-sustaining education communities where girls and young women share equally in the rewarding careers and rich life experiences that mathematics offers.”
BHP Billiton Finance senior manager Fiona Avery said she chose maths at school thanks to the support and encouragement of educators and it was great to see the effort made to promote maths subjects for girls and young women.
“In the past assumptions have been made that boys are better at things like maths, when actually it has been shown that if people believe in you, give you confidence and tell you that you can do it, you are more likely to succeed,” she said.
“If you’re not given that opportunity, you never get the chance to prove it. So anything that just gives you that nudge will surely encourage more girls and give them the confidence to choose these subjects.”