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Differences in interest and confidence in STEM appear early, and are particularly concerning for information technology and engineering

1) Female students are less interested and less confident in STEM subjects compared to males, particularly in the areas of engineering and technology. Level of interest in STEM Subjects is as follows. Science: Male 68%, Female 61%. Technology: Male 75%, Female 54%. Engineering: Male 55%, Female 28%. Mathematics: Male 56%, Female 45%. Confidence in getting good results in STEM subjects is as follows. Science: Male 64%, Female 60%. Technology: Male 73%, Female 56%. Engineering: Male 50%, Female 26%. Mathematics: Male 65%, Female 60%. 2) When considering the importance of STEM knowledge for future employment, female students consider technology as the most important and engineering as the least. Importance of STEM knowledge for employment (female) is as follows. Science: 75%. Technology: 86%. Engineering: 54%. Mathematics: 80%. 3) When asked what type of career they would like to have in the future, twice as many male students aspired to a STEM-related career than females. Male 41%. Female 20%.

Female students are participating in STEM education at significantly lower rates than males

4) In 2017, despite having similar average performance, fewer girls achieved at the highest levels in NAPLAN numeracy tests compared to boys. Year 3: Male 19.0%, Female 15.2%. Year 5: Male 10.9%, Female 7.2%. 5) Female students are enrolling in Year 12 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Design and Technology subjects at much lower levels than males and rates are declining. In 2010: Male 41.1%, Female 28.1%. In 2017: Male 39.4%, Female 26.3%. 6) Completion of tertiary STEM education, particularly engineering and related technologies studies, is far lower amongst females. Total STEM Completions: Male 79.2%, Female 20.8%. Total VET Activity: Male 83.0%, Female 17.0%. Domestic Undergraduate: Male 62.7%, Female 37.3%. Domestic Postgraduate: 65.4%, 34.6%. Engineering and Related Technologies Completions are as follows. Vocational Education: Male 89.97%, Female 10.13%. Domestic Undergraduate: Male 85.64%, Female: 14.36%.

Women are poorly represented in the STEM workforce and earn less than their male counterparts

7) Of the STEM qualified population, women comprised only 17 percent in 2016. In 2006: VET 9%, Higher Education 28%, Total STEM Qualified 15%. In 2011: VET 9%, Higher Education 29%, Total STEM Qualified 16%. In 2016: VET 9%, Higher Education 31%, Total STEM Qualified 17%. 8) In academia, women are underrepresented as a total of STEM academic and research staff and in senior positions. In 2016, women comprised only 31.0 per cent of STEM academic and research staff. In 2016 only 14.5 per cent of STEM professors were female. Figures comparing male and female representations at different levels are as follows. Level A: Male 56.5%, Female 43.5%. Level B: Male 64.9%, Female 35.1%. Level C: Male 70.5%, Female 29.5%. Level D: Male 76.7%, Female 23.3%. Level E: Male 85.5%, Female 14.5%. 9) In the broader workforce, women are particularly underrepresented in engineering and IT. Only 12.4 per cent of engineers were women in 2016. Only 28.0 per cent of the ICT workforce were women in 2017. 10) Women earn less than their male counterparts in science, engineering and ICT roles. The pay gap is: Engineering 11.0%; Science 12.4%; ICT 20.2%. 11) Visibility of women working in STEM careers is poor. Only 28 per cent of STEM academic writers featured in The Conversation in 2017 were women.

Explanatory notes

1. Student Edge, 2019, Youth in STEM Research, published 8 March 2019.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science commissioned a survey to be carried out by Student Edge on young Australians’ attitudes towards and perceptions of STEM. The survey asked more than 2000 students, aged between 12 and 25 years old, questions to establish a national benchmark of young Australians’ awareness and perception of STEM subjects and careers, and particularly focuses on the difference between male and female students. Results were weighted to ensure the population of interest was accurately represented, and respondents came from all states and territories across Australia.

Students were asked about their level of interest in specific STEM subjects. More than 1800 students from across high school and university responded, with results indicating that female students have significantly lower interest across science, technology, engineering and maths. A similar number of responses to the question ‘how confident do you feel that you can study and get good results in each of the following subjects?’ showed that boys and girls have similar levels of confidence in science and maths. However, girls have significantly less confidence in technology and engineering.

2. Student Edge, 2019, Youth in STEM Research, published 8 March 2019.

More than 1000 female students from across high school and university responded to the question ‘Thinking about getting a good job in the future, how important do you believe it is to have knowledge and skills related to each of the subjects that make up STEM?’. Responses indicate that girls see technology as the most important subject to study for gaining future employment, with 86 per cent stating it is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important. Girls see engineering as the least important with only 54 per cent stating it is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important, significantly lower than male students with 65 per cent.

3. Student Edge, 2019, Youth in STEM Research, published 8 March 2019.

Students were asked what type of career they would like to have in the future, with more than 1400 responses. Forty-one per cent of male students who responded selected ‘a STEM-related career,’ significantly higher than only 20 per cent of female respondents.

4. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, NAPLAN Achievement in Reading, Persuasive Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy: National Report for 2017, ACARA, Sydney, accessed 7 February 2019.

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual assessment for all Australian students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The numeracy component tests students in number and algebra; measurement and geometry; and statistics and probability. NAPLAN has an achievement scale with ten “bands”, which represent increasing complexity of knowledge and skills. Six of the bands are used for reporting student performance at each year level. The year 3 report shows bands 1 to 6, the year 5 report shows bands 3 to 8, the year 7 report shows bands 4 to 9, and the year 9 report shows bands 5 to 10. The highest recorded achievement band is Band 6 for year 3 and Band 8 for year 5. Data shown reflects the proportion of students achieving in or above these bands, split by gender.

5. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2017, National Report on Schooling data portal, accessed 7 February 2019.

The percentage of year 12 students enrolled in Information and Communication Technology and Design and Technology subjects are calculated as the percentage of total year 12 full-time students. Refer to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority website for further information.

6. Department of Education and Training uCube – Higher Education Data Cube, accessed 7 February 2019; National Centre for Vocational Education Research – VOCSTATS, extracted on 4 October 2018.

Department of Education and Training cube data are based on selected higher education micro data collected through the Higher Education Statistics Collections. Cube data records students who have requested their gender to be recorded as neither male nor female as female. University data refers to domestic graduates in STEM degrees. Undergraduate completions data includes: Bachelor’s Graduate Entry; Bachelors Honours and Bachelor’s Pass degrees. Postgraduate completions data includes: Doctorate by Coursework; Doctorate by Research; Higher Doctorate; Masters by coursework; Masters by research. Vocational educational data refers to all completions in STEM courses. Total VET Activity refers to Total VET Activity for STEM vocational education completions. Broad STEM fields of education included in analysis: Natural and Physical Sciences, Information Technology, Engineering and Related Technologies, Agriculture Environmental and Related Studies.

7. Office of the Chief Scientist, 2019 (unpublished calculations)

Refer to the report on Australia's STEM Workforce for STEM qualifications included in analysis.

8. Department of Education and Training special data request, 2018. Department of Industry, Innovation and Science calculations.

Department of Education do not collect data on field of research. This calculation uses proxy data based on the STEM field that staff are teaching in, which is calculated using the Academic Organisation Unit from the student data and mapping this to the staff data. Because of this limitation, a small percentage of staff data cannot be mapped to a field of teaching. (This mapping is only valid where staff have either a teaching or teaching/research function, it is not valid for research only staff). Staff numbers only include full-time and fractional full time staff, casual staff counts are not available. STEM teaching fields included in analysis: Agriculture, Agriculture Environmental and Related Studies, Biological Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Technology, Engineering and Related Technologies, Environmental Studies, Fisheries Studies, Geomatic Engineering, Information Systems, Information Technology, Mathematical Sciences, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Technology, Natural and Physical Sciences, Other Agriculture Environmental and Related Studies, Other Engineering and Related Technologies, Other Information Technology, Other Natural and Physical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Veterinary Studies.

9. Kaspura, Andre, 2017, The Engineering Profession: A Statistical Overview, Thirteenth Edition, February 2017, Engineers Australia, viewed 17 January 2019. Australian Computer Society, Australia’s Digital Pulse - Driving Australia’s international ICT competitiveness and digital growth, ACS, 2018, viewed 2 February 2019.

10. Professionals Australia Gender and Diversity, All Talk: Gap between policy and practice a key obstacle to gender equity in STEM, 2018, Professionals Australia, viewed 2 February 2019.

The Professional Scientists Remuneration Survey tracks annual changes in compensation for full-time employees in Australia. The survey was conducted online during May/June 2018. Invitations to participate were forwarded to member societies of Science & Technology Australia and scientist members of Professionals Australia. The survey was conducted online during May/June 2018. Completed valid questionnaires were returned by 1,202 respondents and have been used as the basis for the analysis contained in this report. Refer to publication for further information.

11. Kennihan, Sarah, 2018, Who writes science and technology stories? More men than women, The Conversation, August 2018, viewed 8 January 2019.

At the end of 2017 the Conversation assessed a year’s worth of stories: 584 articles. Some were written by a single academic, others featured two, three and occasionally more. Overall, 681 authors were involved – 489 men, and 192 women. Refer to publication for further details.