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Development of confidence, interest and skills in STEM begins at a young age and can be influenced by many factors. Understanding girls’ perceptions and attitudes to STEM can assist families, educators and policy makers to support girls to:

  • persist in STEM
  • consider future STEM-related career options

Key findings

Do girls and boys have different levels of STEM skills?

Between 2008 and 2018, girls consistently achieved lower mean NAPLAN scores in numeracy than boys.

Infographic of simple line graph showing girls’ mean NAPLAN scores have been consistently below boys’ mean NAPLAN scores across years 3, 5, 7 and 9 from 2008 to 2018.

A lower percentage of girls achieved at or above the highest NAPLAN band in 2018.

Bar chart showing data: Year 3 girls 14%, Year 3 boys 18%, Year 5 girls 7%, Year 5 boys 11%, Year 7 girls 9%, Year 7 boys 13%, Year 9 girls 7%, Year 9 boys 11%.

A similar percentage of girls and boys achieved at or above the NAPLAN minimum standard in 2018 across all year groups.

96% of girls vs 95% of boys.

Results in mathematics and science amongst girls and boys declined from 2006 to 2018.

Infographic showing downward trend of mean scores of boys and girls in both Australia and OECD from 2006 to 2018.

National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) numeracy results showed girls consistently achieved lower mean scores than boys in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 from 2008 to 2018.

In the 2018 NAPLAN test results, in each year group, 96% of girls and 95% of boys achieved scores at or above the minimum standard expected in numeracy. However, across all year groups, a lower percentage of girls than boys achieved scores at or above the highest band usually achieved for their respective year group.

Australian students’ science and mathematics mean score results in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) declined between 2006 and 2018 for both girls and boys.

Between these years, the OECD PISA mean score results also showed:

  • Australian boys consistently achieved higher mean scores than Australian girls in mathematics.
  • Australian girls consistently achieved higher mean scores than the OECD average for girls in mathematics, but the gap narrowed over this time period.
  • Australian girls and boys consistently achieved higher mean scores than the OECD average for science.

Do girls think STEM skills are important for future careers?

In 2019, 12–17 year old girls were less likely than boys to see engineering skills as important to getting a good job in the future.

Science girls 72% boys 70%, Technology girls 79% boys 78%, Engineering girls 55% boys 68%, Mathematics girls 79% boys 75%.

Findings from the 2019-20 Youth in STEM Research survey indicated that 90% of school-age girls (12 to 17 years old) considered STEM skills important when considering future employment. Of the four STEM knowledge areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), the highest proportion of both girls and boys cited technology as important. The smallest proportion of both girls and boys cited engineering as important.

Do girls’ and boys’ aspirations to work in STEM-related careers differ?

In 2019, girls aged 12-17 years were less likely to aspire to a STEM-related career than boys.

27% of girls vs 42% of boys.

Findings from the 2019–20 Youth in STEM Research survey indicate 27% of school-age girls (12 to 17 years old) aspired to have a STEM-related career in the future, compared to 42% of school-age boys.