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Conclusion and definitions

The Australian Government is committed to supporting greater gender equity in STEM and has put in place initiatives that will help shape a more gender equal future in the STEM sector.

Advancing Women in STEM articulates the Government’s commitment to continuing action to achieve equality across the STEM sector. This sits alongside the Decadal Plan for Women in STEM, which has set out a ten year roadmap to support the STEM sector – government, industry, research and education – in working together to address the underlying causes of gender inequity.

Bridging the gap between the participation rates of men and women in STEM will not happen overnight. It requires long-term commitment to action. It will take a change in our culture to recognise the integral place of girls and women in STEM. This is not about pushing girls into a STEM career – it is about creating freedom of choice and ensuring our systems, institutions and workplaces support this choice. Helping all Australians understand this – and the opportunities that success in this area will provide – is a key priority of the Government.

The opportunities Australia stands to gain from increasing the representation of women in STEM are extensive. The evidence has shown that gender diverse businesses are more productive and prosperous, and industries with access to more employees with STEM skills are more adaptive and innovative, vital traits as we transition into the economy of the future.

However, the benefits go far beyond the economic. Through removing the systemic cultural and institutional barriers in these sectors, Australia as a whole will become a more confident and capable global presence, one whose entire population is equipped with the essential skills to succeed and excel in the future.

STEM knowledge and skills are the pathway to more efficient services, individually tailored products, advances in resource management, improved personal and national security, better education and care – ultimately, a more sustainable and resilient society that all Australians will benefit from in their daily lives. As long as half of the population is being held back from exploring and applying their abilities and celebrating their achievements in STEM, Australia is also being held back from reaching its full potential.

Advancing Women in STEM will continue to guide the Government’s activities in STEM gender equity, ensuring that we focus on those initiatives with real, long-term impact. Only in this way can we truly make a difference.



Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of girls and boys and women and men.[57]


Equity is fairness of treatment, regardless of gender, according to respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities.[58] Through gender equity, gender equality is possible.[59]


We take STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to include the natural, physical and life sciences, mathematics, engineering, ICT and technology related disciplines. However, we recognise that there is no line that clearly divides STEM from non-STEM fields or jobs, and that many different occupations require or make beneficial use of STEM skills. References to STEM do not include or exclude any particular field unless clearly specified.

STEM sector

The STEM sector includes all organisations involved in work, research or education in STEM disciplines, including, but not limited to, universities, vocational education providers, STEM industry and schools.


The term women (including girls for minors) encompasses cisgender (personal gender identity corresponds with sex assigned at birth), transgender, non-binary and intersex persons who identify as women (girls).[60]


  1. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Concepts and Definitions, UN Women, viewed 21 January 2019.
  2. International Labour Organization, ABC of women workers’ right and gender equality, 2007, ILO, Geneva, viewed 20 February 2019.
  3. United Nations Population Fund, Frequently asked questions about gender equality, 2005, UNFPA, viewed 20 February 2019.
  4. Australian Academy of Science, Women in STEM Decadal Plan Discussion Paper, Australian Academy of Science, viewed 14 March 2019.

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© Commonwealth of Australia 2019

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Content contained herein should be attributed as Commonwealth of Australia Advancing Women in STEM.

ISBN: 978-1-925050-09-7 (online)

Produced by: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science


The following images are featured in the PDF publication.

Cover, clockwise from top left: Victoria Coleman (NMI supplied image), Questacon Smart Skills Participant (in image) Peter Smith (photographer), Colleen MacMillan (CSIRO supplied image), Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith (personal image), Salam Matalka (NMI supplied image), Ronika Powers (personal image).

  • Dr Cathy Foley (CSIRO supplied image).
  • Claire and Imogen (Curious Minds supplied image).
  • Leanne Smith (personal image).
  • Tim Reed (Kit Haseldon).
  • Edith Cowan University SAGE awards ceremony (Edith Cowan University supplied image).
  • Dr Tien Huynh (personal image).
  • Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith (CSIRO supplied image).

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