Women in STEM: Diversifying a generation’s mindset

It’s widely accepted that the tech industry suffers from lack of diversity and, by extension, gender disparity. According to the Department of Industry, only 20.8% of women complete tertiary STEM education, compared with 79.2% of men. This trend continues into the workforce, where only 17% of the total STEM-qualified population are women.

But what can women do to effect actual change? Should the focus be on female leaders to forge the path for others, or is it assumed these issues will be non-existent for the next generation?

These are the questions Audrey Jacquemart is faced with. From taking a single semester in biometrics, to co-founding a startup halfway across the globe, Audrey’s journey has been anything but typical – yet that’s proven to work in her favour.


Standing apart from the norm

Audrey is well aware of the inherent challenges of her journey, yet they’ve never hampered her ability to bring her whole self to work.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have great mentors, which makes a huge difference,” she says.

In 2019 she partnered with Blair Crawford and Craig Hodges to form Daltrey, a biometric identity provider, and wrote the first line of code for the solution. Now, as Daltrey’s Director of Product and Solution Engineering, Audrey is working harder than ever to ensure the product is brought to life just as she envisioned it.


“It starts in the home”

As a parent, Audrey is determined to show her daughter the possibilities in being free of gender stereotypes; she believes this is the key to righting the gender imbalance in the tech field and generating real equality. In Audrey’s view, the gender imbalance hasn’t changed since her days at university, however she can see through her daughter’s eyes where the gender stereotypes start.

“It starts in the home,” says Audrey. “Even at such an early age, I’m noticing that they’re influencing my daughter’s choices. I’ve seen gender stereotypes reinforced in early education, which is a reflection of the average household, and above that, of society in general. It’s natural, then, that these are extended into the workplace.”

At home, parents need to share responsibilities. However, in some households, tasks are still gender-specific. Kids absorb this, grow up and repeat what they’ve seen. They’re not given the opportunity to experience a different way where anyone can do anything regardless of their gender – whether that’s Mum mowing the lawn or Dad mopping the kitchen floor.

As in many other developed countries, Australian mothers bear the brunt of household and child-rearing responsibilities, despite having the same full-time work commitments as their partners.


Influencing future generations

By addressing these issues at their root – from the home – the learnings children carry with them into their education and careers will change how society views gender roles.

“Instead of only focusing on how to empower women, we must also work on empowering boys to be more nurturing ,” says Audrey. “Equality starts at the home, and COVID-19 has provided parents with a unique opportunity to be more intentional in how they share responsibilities at home and spend time with their children.

“A child who sees both parents for an equal amount of time will have the opportunity to view the world through two different lenses.

“If that’s taken one step further and children are encouraged to engage in activities that aren’t traditionally assigned to their specific gender, they’ll adopt a world view that’s unique – that the rest of their peers don’t have.”

For Audrey and her family, this is a conscious decision reinforced daily, but she knows it isn’t possible without negotiations.

“My daughter wanted to enrol in classical dance classes, which we agreed to on the proviso that she also enrol in tennis. Fast-forward 12 months and now she absolutely loves the sport – something she wouldn’t have discovered if we didn’t encourage her to push her boundaries.”

“We, as parents, fail to teach our children gender equality when we stop doing that.

“If diversity in the workforce can result in amazing creations, imagine what diversifying a generation’s mindset can do.”


Want more insight into the world of security, identity access management, biometrics and more? Get your weekly fix with the IDentity Today podcast, hosted by Daltrey MD Blair Crawford. You can start on Episode 1 here or listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.