While there’s rising demand for STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), enrolments by high school aged girls to STEM subjects continues to lag behind. 

Girls in Tech is an ongoing initiative between CBA and Telstra to address this challenge, inspiring the next generation of technology talent by encouraging high school girls to consider the many opportunities of a career in STEM.

High school students from across South-West and Western Sydney were welcomed to The Foundry, Commonwealth Bank’s inner-city office, they were treated to a dynamic speaker showcase, interactive exhibition, and design workshop to show how STEM skills can be applied in real-life settings and inspire young women to think creatively about their futures.

Now in its eighth year, Girls in Tech is an important part of CBA’s community outreach commitment — a sentiment echoed by the bank’s Executive General Manager of Ops and Tech Services, Julia Strain.

“Girls in Tech is always such a powerful reminder of the responsibility we have as an organisation to nurture the next generation of female technology talent. I don’t underestimate the power of the potential we see each year in these girls. Their perspectives, energy and ideas will prove invaluable in years to come,” says Ms Strain.

Three keynote speakers from a diverse range of STEM disciplines took to the stage to encourage, challenge and inspire the 200-strong crowd about the possibilities available to them.

The students marvelled at how marine biologist Dr Emma Camp is using science and technology to protect our Great Barrier Reef. Catherine Williams, a digital FX effects artist from animation studio Animal Logic, sprinkled some movie magic, showing the girls how animated movies such as Peter Rabbit, the LEGO movie and Netflix’s Leo are made by harnessing the power of creativity and technology. Professor Noushin Nasiri capped the day off with a deep dive into nanotechnology and how she is helping to create smaller and more efficient devices to address health issues like UV radiation detection to help prevent skin cancer.

The interactive exhibition showcased innovation, emerging technologies and creativity. Students tried their hand at intelligence gathering and lock-picking at CBA’s Cyber Security stand, explored artificial intelligence with Telstra, and gained hands-on experience with production tools and technologies powering animation with Animal Logic.

Students around a cyber security stand at Girls in Tech
Lock-picking demo at Girls in Tech
Robotics demo at Girls in Tech 2024

The STEM careers stand helped lay out some of the exciting opportunities in technology, giving students space to ask questions about available pathways and electives to help them succeed in a technology career and better understand about the in-demand skills of the future.

Among the STEM careers stand representatives was Year13, a free and accessible platform for young Australians, which aims to help them find what it is they are passionate about and turn that into an actionable plan for the future. In partnership with organisations such as CommBank and Tech Council Australia (TCA), Year13 offers a free virtual work experience program that allows students to step into the shoes of a software engineer or data scientist to learn what a job in tech is all about. The virtual work experience program is available across various roles and sectors, providing students with access to informative videos, interactive activities, and a range of resources to get started on their career plans – all gamified as a bonus.

STEM Careers stand at Girls in Tech

Tying the day together was a STEM skills workshop hosted by the Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN). Students had the chance to put design thinking principles into practice and work in teams to explore STEM in the real world. They built a “wind-powered” car with minimal accessories, coming away with core skills like critical thinking, iteration, curiosity and problem solving.

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