Refraction Media celebrates 10 years of busting STEM stereotypes

October 16, 2023

Refraction Media co-founders reflect on 10 years of publishing high school resource, Careers with STEM.

Refraction Media co-founders Karen Taylor-Brown and Heather Catchpole location at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, producing the US edition of Careers with Code. Image: Supplied.

In 2014, Meghan Trainor was singing ‘All About That Bass’, everything was ‘basic’ and ‘software developer’ was the number one job. Most young people had stereotyped ideas about the hoodie-wearing tech guy, and less than 2% of students were graduating computer science. It was also the year the very first edition of Careers with Code magazine was released, with Google as a founding sponsor. 

We headed to Google in Sydney, photographed people on scooters and in plant-filled offices, and packed the magazine with stories of how people really worked in tech – like product manager Ganesh Shankar, who worked with doctors to help safely share patient data outside of isolated environments during the largest Ebola outbreak in history in March 2014. 

In that first issue, we created the concept of STEM + X (where ‘X’ stands for your passion or goal), and focused on busting stereotypes about people working in tech. We featured the Aussie founders of Atlassian, software engineers behind the tech for ‘design-your-own’ shoe fashion, and programmers working on marine sonar technology.

In 2015, Careers with Code went global to the United States and New Zealand, and in 2016 the mag was promoted by then US President Barack Obama.

In 10 years, we’ve distributed 2 million free magazines to high schools across the globe, expanding to a different area of STEM for each school term, and creating special issues on everything from quantum technologies to space, defence, and even digital retail.

We’ve made 26 Job Kits that deep dive into special areas like metaverse engineer, machine learning engineer, game designer, and software developer (we still need them!).

Through events, free mags, websites and newsletters, we’ve reached well over 4 million people.

Today, Australia has a goal to hire 1.2 million new workers in tech by 2030, while New Zealand’s digital tech sector is growing at 10.4% per year. And with mega advances in AI and data, we need to ensure equitable development of technology, with more women, people of colour, people with disabilities and First Nations people working in technology.

Enrolment rates for women in IT degrees have increased from 13% to 18% in the five years from 2015 to 2020. There’s still a long way to go, and so much inspiration that you’ll find in this 10th issue.

Make sure you also check out this website to find your ‘X’, plus quizzes and videos to help you find a career in tech, whatever your interests are.

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