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The latest OECD data show that just over 30 per cent of tertiary qualifications were awarded to women in STEM fields in OECD countries. In Australia, 33 per cent of STEM tertiary qualifications were awarded to women.

The differential persists in the workforce with only 28 per cent of the employed STEM-qualified Australian workforce aged 15 years and over being female, compared to 55 per cent for all fields in the tertiary qualified population.

The workforce participation figure stood at 14 and 86 per cent for females and males respectively in Engineering and related technologies, and 25 and 75 per cent respectively for females and males in Information and communications technology (ICT). There was less disparity in the Natural and physical sciences where females comprised 47 per cent of the workforce compared with 53 per cent males, and in Pharmacy, women comprised 56 per cent of the workforce.

International research shows that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills and that Australian employers report experiencing difficulties recruiting STEM-qualified graduates and staff.

It is in this context that the results of the 2015 Survey of Women in the STEM Professions are cause for serious concern. The survey found a complex set of interrelated factors which contributed to respondents reporting that they were “on a slower track” than their male counterparts. The aim of this report is to detail some of the factors which contribute to women’s under-representation in the STEM professions and to explore professional women’s career experiences as part of the STEM workforce.

Addressing the issues raised in this report is not only a matter of justice and equity – fully realising Australia’s productivity potential and innovative capability into the future will depend on ensuring a sustainable STEM skills pipeline and effectively attracting, developing and retaining women in the STEM workforce.

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