By Natalie Borghi
It’s been an interesting semester so far, in which I have a learned a lot about the broad scope of gender equality, especially within the Australian workplace. I’ve arrived at a point where I’m relatively content with my proposition, however as we are dealing with extremely large and complex issues, I’m still quite overwhelmed and confused with all the information.
Recap of First Proposition
Last tutorial, I had one-on-one feedback with another student, Jamie, and Simone, my tutor. I had presented my original idea, which was a “mentor-like” app, allowing young females (18-24 year olds) to ask career related questions through an app and get replies from a senior in that field. Having the reassurance from a higher figure could encourage young females to enter a field they’re interested in, especially if they were originally unsure about it. This idea time to tackle the barrier of gender stereotypes which may affect female’s choices of entering a certain field.
I must admit I was quite confident with this idea at the time, however through the useful feedback session, I started to see the many flaws in my proposition.
The main issue was the claim of gender stereotypes. As opposed to the gender pay gap, it’s difficult to find clear data which proves they still exist within the workplace. Also, focusing on the entire Australian workplace is way too broad. It was suggested that I narrow down my focus to one field to allow for more specific research. As mentoring already exists as an effective solution for women in the work field, it was suggested I look into how mentoring programs work now, and identify how they could be improved. I could then apply this to my design. Then it was also pointed out that apps are very inclusive to the specific audience. It’s not very effective for creating awareness, and after only a few uses, the app usually just sits on someone’s phone, untouched.
Development from Feedback
This was a lot of feedback to take in, although it definitely helped me progress further with my concept. I decided to put gender stereotypes aside and move back to the pay gap, as I had spent so much time researching it earlier. However “the pay gap” on its own was still way too broad, so as suggested I narrowed down my focus to a specific work field: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). I chose STEM as it has the fourth highest pay gap in Australia (WGEA, 2016).
Another interesting fact was that 16% of qualified STEM people are female (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2016). STEM skills are becoming more and more necessary within most careers, so boosting the number of females within the field would be more beneficial for adding diversity to the field, as well as boosting their own employability.
I also decided, since mentoring already exists, I wanted to explore alternate options. I wanted to encourage young females to join the STEM field, plus create public awareness about the lack of females within the field. Gender stereotypes and the pay gap are still underlying factors of this design solution, however decided not to make them the main focuses.
This feedback and further research has helped shape my second proposition.
Title: We Are STEM
Practice: Generative + Participatory Design
Issue: With STEM skills becoming more necessary within most careers, it’s surprising to note the significant lack of women within the field. As STEM makes up a large proportion of the Australian workplace, the overall pay gap between men and women is also affected; STEM has the fourth largest pay gap within Australia. Over time women’s employment opportunities have notably improved, however as evident through the pay gap, there is still room for further improvement.
Despite being less relevant within today’s society, research into first hand experiences and secondary sources suggest that gender stereotypes are still somewhat prominent in our cultural view of STEM jobs, in particular engineering.
Possible Change: Young females feeling encouraged to join the STEM field, and being enlightened about the possible job options and the impact they could make within society; potentially they hadn’t considered it before, they’re unsure of their career path, or they feel conflicted about heading into the field.
The public becoming educated about the lack of females in the field, learning about job positions within the field, and understanding the acceptability of women working in a range of “typically male” jobs.
Design Action to Support Change: We Are STEM is a proposed interactive and generative exhibition which reveals females who are currently within the STEM field, through images and text. The exhibition would include a large rectangular frame made of multiple wooden square blocks, inspired by the works of artist, Eric Nye. The front face of each block contains a photo of a female, dressed in casual clothes. The audience is invited to flip the blocks around to the back face, which reveals a statement by the woman pictured. For example,
“I’m studying civil engineering so I can help provide a better future for our buildings and railways.”
As the woman pictured is wearing casual clothes, the audience can be pleasantly surprised by the reveal of their career.
The female audience are also invited to complete statements similar to those in the installation. For example,
“I’m studying___________ because I want to_________________.”
Then provide their first name and age. These will be written on postcards, which can be collated and displayed for the audience to view.
Additionally, to extend the exposure to not just the exhibition attendees, social media promotions can be utilised. For example, an We Are STEM frame for people to pose with and post on social media.
WGEA, 2016. Gender Pay Gap Statistics, August 2016, Australia, viewed 21 September 2016, <https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Gender_Pay_Gap_Factsheet_final.pdf>
Office of the Chief Scientist, 2016. Australia’s STEM Workforce: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Australian Government, Australia, viewed 19 September 2016, <http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/Australias-STEM-workforce_full-report.pdf>