The 2021 edition of the STEM Equity Monitor report shows that women’s participation in STEM is increasing in terms of both STEM workforce participation and university enrolments.
The figures show an increase in women working in STEM-qualified industries, with women now comprising 28 per cent of the STEM workforce – up from 24 per cent in 2016.
The proportion of women undertaking STEM university courses has also increased with women making up 36 per cent of Australian university STEM enrolments in 2019.
Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said that while the increases were encouraging, there was clearly still a great amount of work yet to be done.
“The STEM Equity Monitor showed that women made up just 13 per cent and 23 per cent of the Engineering and IT workforce respectively in 2019 and just 18 and 19 per cent of enrolments in those professions. We still have a significant gender-based pay gap in STEM – WGEA figures show a gap of 22 per cent in Engineering and Science and 21 per cent in IT compared to an average pay gap of 14.0 per cent for all industries.”
“While it’s good to see workforce participation and enrolments being actively monitored, the reality is that these figures once again show how low the workforce participation and comparative enrolments figures are in Engineering and IT. A multitude of factors drive women out of the STEM workforce including lack of flexibility at senior levels, lack of access to career-building activities, lack of role models and lack of opportunities to apply for senior roles,” she said. “There are also high levels of sexual harassment and a persistence of gendered roles and expectations that create potentially hostile workplaces that don’t promote based on merit. All of these factors combine to create comparatively high levels of attrition of women from the STEM workforce. So while it’s good that enrolments in STEM courses are up albeit slightly, the very serious issue of the retention of women in the STEM workforce remains.”
The 2021 STEM Equity Monitor report is available at www.industry.gov.au/stemequitymonitor.