Nationwide survey finds women in STEM are underpaid, underrepresented and unsupported
Professionals Australia has urgently called for future, post-COVID STEM strategies to focus on improving the participation, retention and career advancement after a nationwide survey found that women in STEM are underpaid, underrepresented and unsupported.
The Women Staying in The STEM Workforce
report found that women in the professional, scientific and technical services industry faced a gender pay gap of 22% when compared to their male counterparts, and that the COVID-19 health crisis had seen higher job losses among women than men.
Women represented only 29% of the university-qualified STEM workforce and over one-third of the female STEM workforce surveyed, aged 25 to 35, intended to leave their profession within five years.
Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said the report’s findings indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has, as feared, intensified the attrition of women from STEM fields and urgent action must be taken.
“The survey found that many women in STEM planned to leave the industry, with pay, conditions and a lack of career advancement among the top reasons for doing so. The pandemic has also created a further ‘push’ factor.
“This confirms that we need urgent organisational changes to ensure the retention of women in STEM fields and that increasing the number of female STEM graduates alone isn’t enough.”
Ms McCabe said that the report’s findings were consistent with her career journey and experience in the workplace.
“Those who work part-time or flexibly are often seen as less committed to their careers. Being part-time also cuts you off from a lot of progression opportunities.
“This creates a vicious cycle where fewer women make it into senior, hiring positions and, as a result, fewer women in the workforce have access to professional development or are promoted to more senior roles.”
Ms McCabe also said that while the report found that the COVID-19 pandemic had disproportionately negatively impacted women, it also provided some opportunities for improving women’s experiences in the STEM workplace.
“Despite the many negative impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has also provided an opportunity to address some of the barriers women have historically faced in STEM. There is now an increased acceptance of more flexible and remote working arrangements, as well as more online training and professional development opportunities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the crucial role our STEM professionals play in shaping public life and outcomes. It’s only fair this value is reflected in their pay and workplace conditions.”
“Urgently addressing the gender pay gap and the organisational factors behind the attrition of women from STEM fields must be part of any plan to re-build the STEM workforce for an equitable post-COVID future.”