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What happens to women who graduate with STEM degrees?

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26 May 2021

A longitudinal study follows women and men to understand their career paths, income and carer responsibilities beyond graduation.

The STEM Equity Monitor collects and integrates data on girls’ and women’s participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In the second edition, the Monitor draws on data from a longitudinal analysis of women and men who graduated from university in 2011. The longitudinal data provide unique insights that can enable better understanding of the progression of people following graduation from university into the workforce. It also examines some factors that may impact their progress.

We partnered with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to draw out these insights. By examining the 2016 Census of Population and Housing and other data, the Monitor looks at university graduates from 2011 and follows their first 5 years of transition into the workforce.

The data highlight different work and life circumstances that impact career outcomes like the fields graduates work in and how much they earn. These circumstances include working part-time or full-time, having caring responsibilities and taking career breaks, such as for a new child or further study.

The longitudinal analysis also quantifies how people with intersectional identities travelled through the STEM pathway from their graduation in 2011 to their occupation in 2016.

The data tells an evolving story. Future editions of the Monitor will continue to examine outcomes of this cohort, 10 and 15 years following graduation as they progress further into their careers.

Snapshot of 2016 occupation outcomes for this cohort of STEM graduates

Five years after graduating, men were 1.8 times more likely to be working in a STEM-qualified occupation.

Of the 2011 STEM graduates there were 38% women and 62% men. The women were working in the following occupations in 2016: 26% in STEM-qualified occupations, 58% non-STEM occupations, 16% not stated. The men were working in these occupations: 47% in STEM-qualified occupations, 36% non-STEM occupations, 17% not stated.


Career breaks and incomes for this cohort of STEM graduates

Women working full-time in STEM who took a career break for the arrival of a child were likely earn less by 2016 than those who didn’t.

10% of women and 5% of men took a career break for a new child. 32% of women and 58% of men had an income over $75,000 after taking a break. 51% of women and 67% of men didn’t take any career break. 43% of women and 57% of men had an income over $75,000 by 2016.


You can explore the data and see more insights on interactive pages in the Monitor:

The Monitor and integrated data tells an evolving story. We will publish new data annually to allow us to see trends over 10 years.

We’re interested in your feedback. When you visit the Monitor please take a moment to tell us what you think in our short survey.

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Email STEM [at] industry.gov.au