Science and Technology Australia (STA) has said tax incentives could be the best way to drive “systemic shifts” in the diversity of Australia’s workforce, including among tech companies.
The advocacy group made the assertion in its submission to the federal government’s Pathway to Diversity draft recommendations.
The group said that the government should widen the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) remit to collect data from employers on a broader set of workforce diversity metrics. This should then be used to model a Workforce Diversity Tax Incentive which would require large companies to report employee data to the WGEA and potentially qualify for a tax break where they meet minimum staff diversity thresholds.
STA chief executive Misha Schubert said the Pathway to Diversity in STEM panel had sought “big and bold” thinking when it asked for responses to its draft recommendations – and the tax incentive proposal is their contribution.
“The panel had asked people to think big and bold about things that could really accelerate the pace at which we are trying to deepen diversity in Australia’s workforces, particularly the STEM workforce,” Schubert told InnovationAus.com.
“One of the great challenges that we’ve had as a country has been that we’ve made some small and modest incremental gains that are really important, but that the pace of change to deepen diversity and to reach into the full talent pool of our country has not been fast enough.
“One idea that we’ve put forward has been to consider tasking the Workplace Gender Equality Agency with collecting data, not just on gender equity in pay, but also on the broader demographic makeup of companies.
“Then you could potentially use that data to say if companies were to meet certain thresholds for diversity within their workforces, they could unlock a positive tax incentive that would give them an additional benefit to doing that.”
The group also recommended that the government double the funding for its Superstars of STEM program, which provides media training to a diverse cohort of STEM professionals to raise their profile as spokespeople, and to provide a commitment to continue funding for a decade to provide continuity.
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