Crucial progress for women in STEM, but much more work to do

October 11, 2022

The latest snapshot highlighted the twin tasks of further widening the pipeline of women into STEM and supporting women to thrive and progress into leadership roles in the STEM workforce.

The number of women enrolled in STEM degrees jumped by 24% between 2015 and 2020, bringing 17,000 more women into STEM study and lifting women’s share of STEM enrolments at universities from 34% to 37%, new data confirms.

But while the pipeline of women in STEM degrees has grown strongly, women remain vastly under-represented at the top levels of Australia’s STEM workforce – with just 23% of senior managers and 8% of CEO roles in STEM held by women – and a 18% gender pay gap remains.

The 2022 STEM Equity Monitor from the Department of Industry, Science & Resources reveals the pipeline of women coming into STEM study at universities has grown strongly since 2015. 

Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the latest snapshot highlighted the twin tasks of further widening the pipeline of women into STEM and supporting women to thrive and progress into leadership roles in the STEM workforce.

“After a decade of concerted effort to encourage more girls and young women to study STEM, we’re starting to see real progress now with many more women doing STEM degrees.”

“That’s hugely important to help transform who sees themselves pursuing a career in STEM, and in changing parental expectations that young women would choose science, maths, engineering and technology degrees.”

“The next urgent challenge is for deeper efforts to tackle the gender pay gap for women in STEM and to propel many more women into senior management and leadership roles in the STEM workforce. STEM employers have a powerful responsibility here.”

Science & Technology Australia is a champion of gender equity and diversity in STEM. We are proud to partner with the Australian Government to deliver the game-changing Superstars of STEM program to advance gender equity by creating diverse STEM role models in the media.

“The jump in women enrolling in university STEM courses by 24% is a brilliant result and shows that more young women and non-male youth are seeing the relevance of fast-growing STEM careers and aligning them to their own interests. There are so many careers in STEM that might not be what young people think – and they can include technologists in fashion, engineers in agriculture and food, scientists in industry and mathematicians working in big data in retail and consulting, to name a few,” said Careers with STEM‘s head of content, Heather Catchpole.

“But so much more needs to be done to support young people from underrepresented groups in STEM throughout their study and early career journeys, and to progress more people who identify as female, neurodiverse people, people from rural areas and minority groups, including First Nations peoples, into leadership roles in STEM.”

Meg Panozzo is an infrastructure advisory consultant with a background in engineering working for professional services firm RPS. She is part of Science & Technology Australia’s STA STEM Ambassador program, which pairs a STEM expert with their local Federal MP or Senator to provide ongoing STEM advice and insights. Ms Panozzo is STEM Ambassador to Independent Member for Wentworth, Allegra Spender.

“The STEM Equity Monitor data shows we need to focus on both attraction and retention. We need to think about the whole cycle of a career from early education all the way through to senior leadership. We can all play a part in supporting and empowering women to grow in their STEM careers, particularly into senior leadership positions,” she said.

“The stats confirm we need to keep pushing for change. But we need to talk about the positives as well – we need to showcase STEM in its whole breadth of possibility. STEM is an exciting way to make a difference, to creatively solve the world’s crises, and to satisfy our curiosity to be life-long learners.”

“This is how we can attract a diversity of people to take up STEM careers, and make the industry a place that fosters growth, innovation and career fulfillment. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

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