Australia’s Youth in STEM survey asks young people about of their awareness and perceptions of STEM subjects and careers.
Findings from the 2019–20 Youth in STEM Research survey indicated that 90% of school-age girls (12 to 17 years old) considered one or more STEM skills to be important for getting a good job in future. Of the four STEM knowledge areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), the largest proportion of both girls and boys cited technology as important. The smallest proportion of both girls and boys cited engineering as important.
School-age girls reported considerably less interest and lower confidence in the areas of engineering and technology compared to boys.
When considering engineering as a STEM subject, girls’ interest and confidence decreased slightly with age. At ages 12 to 13 (early secondary school), 37% of girls (compared to 66% of boys) were interested in engineering and 38% of girls (compared to 57% of boys) were confident in engineering as a subject. By ages 14 to 17 (mid-upper secondary school), 35% of girls (compared to 56% of boys) were interested in engineering and 31% of girls (compared to 54% of boys) were confident in engineering as a subject.
This pattern was not seen in the other STEM subjects, where a peak in confidence was seen for girls in mathematics in the 14 to 17 age group. Girls’ interest in science (between 58% and 64%) and technology (between 50% and 55%) remained quite steady across the age groups.
Attitudes to studying STEM in the future also changed as boys and girls aged. At ages 12 to 13 (early secondary school), more boys than girls thought they were not smart enough to study STEM in the future (55% of boys compared to 12% of girls). By ages 14 to 17 (mid‑upper secondary school), girls who thought they were not smart enough to study STEM exceeded boys—38% of boys and 40% of girls reported thinking they were not smart enough to study STEM. By ages 18 to 21, this increased with 41% of girls and 29% of boys giving this reason for not studying STEM.
When asked what type of career they would like to have in the future, 27% of school age girls (12 to 17 years) aspired to a STEM-related career compared to 42% of school age boys. Of STEM careers, more school-age girls aspired to be scientists or engineers, and a larger percentage of boys aspired to be engineers or have careers in ‘Computing or information technology’.
Understanding the data
The 2019–20 Youth in STEM Research was a survey of 3000 young Australians aged between 12 and 25 years. The survey asked questions to understand young Australians’ awareness and perception of STEM subjects and careers. Respondents came from all states and territories across Australia.
To ensure survey results were representative of the population, weighting was used to correct for under or over representation of sub-groups, by gender, age, location, country of birth and socio-economic status.
Our department commissioned Student Edge to carry out this survey. Read about our methodology.