Labor pledges $4.5 million to get more women coding

A federal Labor government would fund a program to encourage more girls and young women to code, Bill Shorten announced today.

A Labor government would put $4.5 million towards a grants program that would support organisations seeking to reduce the gender disparity in the software development industry by encouraging young women and girls to write code.

"We're proposing that $150,000 per grant would be made available to organisations like Code Club Australia to help encourage schools to teach kids the skills they need in the future," Shorten said today during a doorstop interview.

Along with Code Club Australia, the Labor policy cites the kind of organisations that could receive grants under the program as including Code Like a Girl, DigiGirlz, Code Camp, Tech Girls Movement, Girls Make Games, Start with Code, Robotics Club Australia, Women Who Code, RoboGals, Girls Geek Academy, Girls Programming Network, We Speak Code, and Go Girl Go for IT.

Labor has released a number of policies intended to boost Australia's STEM workforce and startup ecosystem. Last week Shorten announced a set of principles for the so-called 'sharing economy', which include peer-to-peer style services such as those facilitated by Airbnb and Uber.

Today's announcement received a warm reception from StartupAUS.

"StartupAUS believes improving rates of participation by women in technology jobs, starts by capturing girls' interest from an early age, having great role models and clearly depicting the diverse career paths that provide plentiful opportunities for girls," the organisation's CEO, Peter Bradd, said.

"StartupAUS is looking forward to continuing its working relationship with all major parties and is excited to be part this new era of thinking. The focused initiatives by Labor highlight some great policies and programs to help transform Australia into an innovation hub.

"It is through the creation of a thriving, diverse tech and innovation hub, that we can begin to compete on a global scale and attract and retain innovation talent."

"Organisations like Code Club Australia, Code Like a Girl, Robogals, Code Camp, Tech Girls Movement and CoderDojo do great work," ACS president Brenda Aynsley said.

"It's wonderful to see the Labor Party recognise and support their efforts so that they can scale up their activities across the country and boost girls’ participation in technology."

“Without a significant increase in the number of women studying ICT and technology based courses, Australia runs the risk that it will not have the skills base to fully capture the significant opportunities and benefits being created by digital technologies," Aynsley said.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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