Women in STEM Decadal Plan
STEM skills are the foundation for Australia’s current and future prosperity. Increasing the participation of women in STEM is a key factor that will build Australia’s STEM workforce. Shifting just 1% of Australia’s workforce into STEM jobs would add $57.4 billion to the nation’s GDP over 20 years. Notwithstanding the economic advantages of women in STEM Australia, evidence shows that companies with gender-diverse leadership teams and boards are more successful than those without gender diversity. Women enable teams to perform more effectively, particularly in innovation-oriented businesses. Achieving gender equity across STEM education and STEM workplaces will be the driving force behind the growth of Australia’s economic, social and cultural landscape.
The Women In STEM Decadal Plan developed by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering is an initiative actioned towards attaining gender equity for women and girls in STEM. The Decadal Plan examines the current position of women and girls in STEM, from early education to established careers, while providing actionable insights and frameworks to achieve greater equity across all levels of engagement.
Download the Australian Academy of Science Women in STEM Decadal Plan here.
Women in STEM career progression pipeline
From the first years of school to early career, women in STEM in Australia experience educational and professional barriers across all stages of the STEM Career Progression Pipeline. The career progression pipeline for women in STEM is ‘leaky’ due to stereotypes, bias, discrimination and other factors. The Decadal Plan identifies strategies for educational institutions and workplaces to become environments where women are able to thrive and succeed as STEM Professionals.
Young girls may believe that they aren’t ‘good’ at STEM or that STEM isn’t for them. This perception significantly impacts subject selection as girls progress through the school years. The attrition rate of young women and girls in STEM subjects across Australia significantly increases in the senior years.
In tertiary education, women are exposed to gender based discrimination, bias and harassment, combined with a lack of support and women in STEM role models.
Professional barriers for women in STEM become increasingly prominent as women enter the early career phase of the STEM career pipeline. Women in STEM in Australia experience discriminatory hiring practices, decreased job security and lower pay compared to their male counterparts.
Increasing representation of girls and women in STEM
Attract – encouraging girls and women in STEM education
Attraction relates to encouraging girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers, ensuring they see STEM as a viable and exciting career pathway. Attracting young girls and women to pursue STEM education and STEM careers in Australia starts with removing the limiting stereotypes and biases that deter young women and girls from pursuing STEM. Girls and women are exposed to limiting gender stereotypes and bias from the early school years that continue on into tertiary education.
For more resources on STEM education and tips on creating inclusive learning environments that encourage girls in STEM, head to the Girls in STEM Toolkit.
Retain – retaining women in STEM Australia equal opportunity and equal pay
Even when women pursue STEM education at high levels, representation of women in associated STEM professions decreases after the early-to mid career stage. Creating STEM workplaces that allow for women to remain and succeed in STEM careers is the focus of retaining women in STEM careers across Australia.
Progress – removing the barriers to progression for women in STEM
The high attrition of women in STEM careers in Australia comes down to multiple factors, however a significant contributor is lack of career progression. Ensuring women are provided with equal opportunities to progress through their STEM careers is one of the keys to removing the barriers women face in the STEM workplace.
Six opportunities for a thriving STEM ecosystem
The women in STEM Decadal plan identifies six opportunities to achieve an inclusive, diverse and thriving STEM ecosystem in Australia. The opportunities identify the key focus areas across education, leadership, professional and cultural domains that will allow for greater access, opportunities and representation of women in STEM.
LEADERSHIP AND COHESION
Stronger cohesion and leadership across the Australian STEM ecosystem will amplify and strengthen diversity outcomes.
Establishing a national evaluation framework will guide decision making and drive investment and effort into measures that work.
The Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador developed a National Evaluation Guide for STEM gender equity programs. The National Evaluation Guide is a simple 5-step evaluation tool that can be used across STEM workplaces to improve and ensure workplace equity for Women in STEM.
A significant cultural shift in workplaces is necessary to create gender equity for women in STEM. A culture that is inclusive and respectful, challenges traditional stereotypes, is free of discrimination and bias, enables flexibility and accommodates career interruptions and changes will maximise women’s participation in the workforce.
Seeing women in diverse STEM careers, and equally represented in the media, in public events, and in other forums like boardrooms and classrooms will provide role models for girls and women and inspire a nation.
Strengthening the education system to support teaching and learning on a national scale will enable and encourage all girls and women at all levels to study STEM courses and equip them with the skills and knowledge to participate in diverse STEM careers.
Establishing a national framework that guides and provides tools to address gender equity amongst SMEs will impact the vast majority of businesses not reached by existing programs.
Take action: Become a Women in STEM Decadal Plan Champion
Make a public commitment to create a more equitable STEM ecosystem by aligning your organisation’s activities towards gender equity with any of the six opportunities identified in the decadal plan.
- Australian Academy of Science. (2019). Women In STEM Decadal Plan
- R. E. O’Dea, M. Lagisz, M. D. Jennions & S. Nakagawa (2018). Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM. Nature communications. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06292-0
- PwC Australia. Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). 2015. Available from: https://www.pwc.com.au/pdf/a-smart-move-pwc-stem-report-april-2015.pdf
- Hunt V, Layton D, Prince S. Diversity matters. 2015. Available from: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters