Gender gap in STEM begins early

March 10, 2021

As International Women’s Day brings a focus to the gender gap in STEM, research shows we need to change the system early in girls’ lives.

Alex Thomson

Dr Alex Thomson heads up UTS’s Deep Green Biotech Hub, and is one of Science and Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM, a program started to raise the profile of women in STEM.

International Women’s Day on March 8 this year and the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 Feb shone a light on the continuing work to do to reduce the gender gap in pay, employment and equity across the board.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology the Hon Karen Andrews marked the International Women’s Day and highlighted the gender gap in STEM by launching the Women in STEM critical evaluation tool, the STEM Equity Monitor.

“The STEM Equity Monitor provides a mechanism for measuring change and analysis of trends over time, with results to be published annually over a ten-year period,” said Minister Andrews.

“These initiatives are part of a collective effort to create change and greater opportunities for the next generation of girls,” she said.

Lisa Harvey-Smith, the Women in STEM Ambassador joined Minister Andrews in launching the STEM Equity Monitor and Women in STEM Action Plan.

“A focus on data and evaluation is really valuable as a sound evidence base will help us to track progress and target action where it’s most needed,” she said.

“Gender equity in STEM and improving participation and opportunities for girls and women in these fields will result in significant social, economic and technological benefits for everyone,” says Minister Andrews.

What does the future look like?

Research from the Women in STEM Ambassador’s team has focussed on the early stage breaking down STEM stereotypes through the Future You initiative, and this week released results from the evaluation of the $1.5m campaign.

Future You is all about exciting and informing young people about the vast array of career options that use STEM skills and breaking down gender stereotypes about who works in STEM. 

The site aims to break down gender stereotypes for women and men in STEM careers (eg nurse=female, doctor=male). The team found statistically significant increase in children who reported being “very interested” in STEM after seeing the campaign (from 36% before to 63% after). This increase was especially strong in girls, with their interest in STEM growing three-fold (from 20% to 68% after the campaign).

Parents who considered STEM skills to be “very important” for their children’s future job prospects grew by 7%, and amongst women, the proportion of mothers who perceived STEM skills as “very important” for future job prospects rose from 52% before to 71% after the campaign.

Gender gap starts early but continues across all levels

Careers with STEM, produced by ScienceMeetsBusiness publishers Refraction Media, is an industry funded platform focussed on the next level aiming to inspire all students aged 12-20 into STEM careers. The site has grown 218% year-on-year and presents a diversity of people in STEM to provide role models in STEM for all people.

The site contains 400 role models in STEM careers from engineering and trades to data science and AI.

More information on Action Plan and Equity Monitor can be found at

Get your kids to play and enjoy the Future You site.

Find hundreds of role models, quizzes, videos and free magazines on

Visit the Women in STEM Ambassador’s site.

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