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Explore research workforce composition and grant funding data

Compare the number of women and men researchers working in STEM fields, non-STEM fields and health fields in 2017.

Source: Australian Research Council (ARC) 2019a

See how many researchers applied for and received funding through the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2018.

Sources: Australian Research Council (ARC) 2019a; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2019

Data insights

In 2017, women comprised 44% of the university research workforce in Australia by headcount, but only 29% of people working in STEM fields in universities.

While some STEM fields had more balanced representation of women and men at junior levels, representation of women at senior levels was extremely low across STEM fields. In 2017, women comprised only 12% of the highest seniority level (Level E - Professor) by headcount. This included representation of:

  • 8% in Engineering
  • 9% in Earth sciences
  • 9% in Mathematical sciences

Representation was also low in the broader research workforce, with women occupying only 25% of the highest positions (Level E - Professor) across all fields in 2017.

In 2018, research grant funding success rates for women and men were similar in STEM fields. Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for schemes starting in 2018 had women achieving a 25% success rate and men achieving a 24% success rate.

For National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding in STEM fields of research, women achieved a 15% success rate, while men achieved a 17% success rate. However, as the number of applications for funding made by women in STEM fields was only 18% for ARC and 28% for NHMRC funding, the proportion of women who received funding in 2018 was 19% for ARC and 26% for NHMRC.

Health and medical research, which is undertaken in a range of fields including STEM fields as defined by the Monitor, is predominantly funded by the NHRMC. Women comprised 45% of investigators funded in health fields by the NHRMC in 2018. According to ERA workforce data, in 2017 women accounted for 52% of the research workforce in health fields, compared to 29% in STEM fields.

Understanding the data

The university research workforce encompasses people who work in higher education settings. This includes academic staff, who perform research and teaching responsibilities and are classified from level A (most junior) to E (most senior), as well as non-academic staff.

The research workforce data shows both the staff headcount (all employees, including those working on a casual and part-time basis) and the full-time equivalent number of staff. It is important to note that data regarding researchers working within Health or Non-STEM fields of research (as defined by the Monitor) does not indicate that they do not hold STEM qualifications or are not working in a STEM occupation. Data is shown for the number of investigators (researchers) who applied for, and received, funding each year from the major funding bodies.

Additionally, the ARC includes ‘Medical and Health Sciences’ (Division 11) and ‘Psychology and Cognitive Sciences’ (Division 17) within their definition of STEM. Therefore, their data and reporting may not be comparable with collated numbers provided here.

Read more about our methodology and this data.