By Claire Harris, Founder/Director at Innovate Communicate and Cowork Coplay.

First published in and adapted from AIDN 2023 1st Quarter Newsletter.


Companies specialising in the science, tech, engineering, maths (STEM) sectors are looking for people to join them on their missions. Whether it’s to help build ships, create new radar technologies or manage projects, Australian industry is undertaking focused ‘talent acquisition’.

Has your company been advertising the jobs out there for project managers, business analysts, IT/computing experts and developers?



Workplace nuances, challenges and opportunities

  • Many companies want to improve diversity, in particular by increasing their recruitment of women during talent acquisition initiatives.
  • Cultural and behavioural issues are still commonplace: including typically masculine and competitive cultures; lack of understanding; stereotyping and biases making workplaces undesirable and ineffective. 
  • Some workplaces have been slow to act around changing their workforce models to include part-time work, flexibility e.g. daily meetings set after 9:30am to assist parents with school drop-offs, and remote work.
  • In some cases, organisations limit access to resources and career development opportunities and support flawed (biased) processes for reward, recognition, and career advancement.

By 2024, Australia need’s 100,000 more digitally skilled workers. By 2025, Australia needs 40,000 more engineers.

STEM industry leaders gather to tackle skills gap | Information Age | ACS

Need to think beyond the people already qualified and experienced

Irrespective of how good your company’s culture and processes are, one of the key overarching issues limiting Australia’s capability is the focus on recruiting the people already with the skills and recent experience. This narrow view means the ‘talent pie’ gets eaten up and doesn’t grow.

The people that already exist in the in-demand talent pool have pick of the jobs (which is fantastic for them). Meanwhile, businesses that need talent aren’t thinking more broadly about how they can grow the pie, as part of talent acquisition. Only crumbs of a small pie are left.

There are loads of opportunities to grow the pie!

Example strategies to grow the pie

1. Set out with the intention of enticing people to your company who’ve taken a career break (intended for family reasons or otherwise).

2. Explore which roles could be offered flexibly, part-time, remotely or as a job-share. (I’m somewhat befuddled that part-time and job-share is not a *standard offering* in companies with dozens of vacancies… Dozens of vacancies!)

3. Encourage new-to-the-field talent to join your company and learn on the job while also taking advantage of a fully subsidised course from Australian Government’s Women in STEM program or NSW Government’s (Veterans) skills program for Veterans and their families and Defence families.

4. Showcase your employees in all their diversity. Ensure they can be seen as role models for upcoming generations.

There are lots of talented people out there who could be interested in joining you on your mission. Why not look outside the current talent pie?

“Gender inequality in STEM workplaces limits the talent available and makes it more difficult to do business, particularly when women are not present at senior levels — diversity in leadership is strongly correlated with higher returns, profitability and share price.”

– Advancing Women in STEM report

Advancing gender diversity an important first step

Women are underrepresented in leadership. Less than 2 in 5 people on ASX200 boards are women and only 14 ASX200 CEOs are women (references below).

Right now, the Australian Government is seeking contributing to the National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality. The next phase of consultation is now openThe Office for Women is developing the strategy in consultation with people around Australia and they want to ensure diverse voices are heard and included.

Defence industry can offer valuable perspectives and examples of success in talent acquisition.

References and further reading

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