STEM Equity Monitor highlights urgent need to close the gender pay gap

21 July 2023

The 2023 STEM Equity Monitor released today demonstrates the deep need for Australia to scale up and accelerate initiatives to achieve genuine diversity in STEM.

At the current rate, it will take a century to achieve gender parity – and training more engineers, applied scientists, and technologists is urgent if we are to build the STEM skilled workforce Australia needs to meet its clean energy, modern manufacturing, electric transport and next-generation computing ambitions in coming decades.

The report shows that women are still underrepresented in STEM education and STEM jobs, with inadequate growth needed for drastic change.

Only 27% of the STEM workforce are women. While the number of women and the number of men in STEM jobs both increased 4% from 2021 to 2022, this was only 9,000 more women, and 60,000 more men. The report also reveals a gender pay gap with women earning $27,012 less across STEM industries.

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said that the inclusion of Year 12 data will help the sector understand the pathways students may take when considering a career in STEM.

“Girls remain underrepresented in Year 12 higher-level mathematics – only 37% in 2021 – which means before they even consider tertiary studies, they are on the back foot. Low engagement with mathematics can be a significant obstacle to pursuing engineering and other STEM subjects at university or TAFE.

“The 2023 STEM Equity Monitor highlights that only one in five girls aspire to a career in STEM in the future. Even more concerning is that girls remain least interested in engineering – and the need for engineers is growing sharply. According to federal government predictions, we’ll need 27,000 new engineers over the next five years and even more beyond that.

“In addressing the underrepresentation of women in STEM, we are scratching the surface of structural disadvantages that limit brilliant and innovative people from accessing STEM education and careers. An inclusive approach is vital to supporting STEM participation and success; and for our society to reap the rewards of a diverse STEM workforce.

“ATSE recommends that government, industry and academic sector investment in STEM programs focused on diversity be prioritised and directed to proven, scalable programs and initiatives that apply an intersectional approach to building diversity in the STEM sector.

“Throughout primary, secondary and tertiary education environments, we must increase confidence and interest in STEM to ensure girls want a career in the sector. And then we must close the 17% gender pay gap so that women who stay in STEM are not further disadvantaged by factors such as socioeconomic status, cultural and linguistic diversity, regional or rural background, or disability, among other structural barriers,” said Kylie Walker.

ATSE is pleased to partner with the Department of Industry, Science and Resources to help shape a future-focused STEM workforce. The Academy’s Elevate: Boosting Women in STEM program will award up to 500 undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships to women and non-binary people in STEM. In 2022 more than 1000 applications were submitted, signalling strong interest in STEM careers from a broad diversity of Australian women.

ATSE applauds the Government’s commitment to publishing the annual STEM Equity Monitor.

“This is an important annual report that can and should be used to inform federal government policy to support greater diversity in STEM. We hope to see future reports also include other genders underrepresented in STEM, and a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in STEM study and jobs.”