Main navigation
Main content area

STEM skills are widely valued and can be used in many different occupations and industries. STEM skills are also important for people working in the research workforce, including academic staff who perform research and have teaching responsibilities. In 2016, women made up 17% of all people in Australia with STEM qualifications.

Understanding women’s participation in STEM-qualified occupations and the STEM research workforce is critical to building an inclusive and diverse workforce that is positioned to take full advantage of the jobs of the future. Understanding how STEM qualified industries are taking action to support women’s participation can highlight industries that are driving change and where more effort still needs to occur.

Key findings

What is the proportion of women working in STEM-qualified occupations?

The percentage of women in STEM-qualified occupations was far less than in non-STEM occupations in 2019.

STEM-qualified occupations: 14% of women. Non-STEM occupations: 50% of women.

STEM-qualified occupations are those where more than half the workforce reported a STEM qualification in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. Between 2009 and 2019, women’s participation in STEM-qualified occupations increased by 3 percentage points, from 11% to 14%.

For comparison, women have comprised almost half of people in non-STEM occupations since 2009 and approximately three-quarters of those in defined Health occupations.

What is the proportion of women working in STEM fields of research?

In STEM fields of research, women account for less than a third of the workforce in 2017.

Women 7537 (headcount), 29% of research workforce: Men 18,443 (headcount), 71% of research workforce.

Women comprised 29% of the academic research workforce in STEM fields in 2017. While some STEM fields had greater representation of women at junior levels, representation of women at senior levels was extremely low across STEM fields.

In 2017, women comprised only 12% of the highest academic seniority level (Level E - Professor).

Do research grant funding outcomes differ according to gender?

Funding for research investigators in STEM was approved at similar rates regardless of gender, however women submitted fewer applications for 2018 funding.

Australian Research Council Research Grant Funding Outcomes - Scheme start year 2018: Women 2206 investigators applied, 557 funded investigators, 25% funding approved; Men 9790 investigators applied, 2367 funded investigators, 24% funding approved. NHMRC Research Grant Funding Outcomes - Scheme start year 2018: Women 712 investigators applied, 108 funded investigators, 15% funding approved; Men 1806 investigators applied, 313 funded investigators, 17% funding approved.

Women and men researchers in STEM fields had similar success rates in obtaining funding grants from the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2018.

However, fewer women in STEM fields in 2018 submitted funding applications:

  • 18% of investigators who applied for ARC funding were women.
  • 28% of investigators who applied for NHMRC funding were women.

This resulted in an underrepresentation of women in successful research grants:

  • 19% of investigators funded by the ARC were women.
  • 25% of investigators funded by the NHMRC were women.

What is the proportion of women working in STEM-qualified industries?

The percentage of women in senior management positions was low in most STEM industries in 2019.

50% Scientific Research Services; 36% All industries; 30% Automotive Repair and Maintenance; 27% Electricity Generation; 25% Electricity Distribution; 21% Computer System and Design and Related Services; 19% Architecture, Engineering and Technical Services; 19% Oil and Gas Extraction; 17% Specialised Machinery and Equipment; 16% Other Transport Equipment Manufacturing; 14% Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance; 13% Other Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing; 11% Metal Container Manufacturers.

STEM-qualified industries are those where more than half the workforce reported a STEM qualification in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.

In 2019, women comprised 27% of the people working in STEM‑qualified industries.

Representation of women at senior levels in most STEM industries (with available data) was low in 2019. For all but one STEM industry, the proportion of women at senior levels was less than the proportion across all industries (36%). Only the ‘Scientific research services’ industry had a larger proportion of women (50%) in senior management.

Is there a gender pay gap in STEM-qualified industries?

The gender pay gap in STEM-qualified industries was 19% compared to 21% in all industries in 2019.

27% Other Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing; 25% Architecture, Engineering and Technical Services; 25% Electricity Generation; 25% Machinery and Equipment Repair and Maintenance; 24% Oil and Gas Extraction; 24% Specialised Machinery and Equipment; 22% Metal Container Manufacturers; 21% All industries $25,679 p.a.; 19% All STEM Industries $27,932 p.a.; 16% Scientific Research Services; 15% Computer System Design and Related Services; 14% Other Transport Equipment Manufacturing; 13% Electricity Distribution; 4% Automotive Repair and Maintenance.

In 2019, women’s average full-time remuneration was 19% less than men’s in STEM‑qualified industries, compared to 21% in all industries. This equates to almost $27,932 in STEM-qualified industries, compared to $25,679 across all industries.

Only 5 of the 12 STEM‑qualified industries (with available data) had a smaller pay gap percentage than the average pay gap across all industries.