The 2022–23 STEM Influencer Survey by YouthInsight explored parents’ perceptions and attitudes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
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Attitudes and engagement with STEM
Compare STEM interest and perceptions among parents across demographic groups, including how often they talk with their kids about STEM.
Source: YouthInsight 2022–23
How to read this chart
The coloured bars show the proportion of parents who agreed with each statement about STEM.
The diamonds show the proportion of parents in the selected demographics who agreed.
For example, this image shows:
- 57% of all mothers were interested in engineering. 65% of mothers with STEM qualifications were interested in engineering, compared to 55% of those without STEM qualifications.
- 80% of all fathers were interested in engineering. 88% of fathers with STEM qualifications were interested in engineering, compared to 75% of those without STEM qualifications.
The survey found parents’ own employment and education circumstances correlated strongly with their views on STEM and their children’s study and careers.
A significantly larger proportion of fathers reported having higher education qualifications compared to mothers (66% of fathers, 57% of mothers). This gap was even greater when focusing on STEM. Among tertiary-qualified parents, fathers were more than twice as likely to have a STEM qualification as mothers (45% of fathers, 20% of mothers). These significant differences were also present in the previous 2020-21 STEM influencer survey.
Most parents (90%) agreed that a STEM-skilled workforce is important for the Australian economy. While this was slightly less than the previous STEM influencer survey (2020–21) with a 92% agreement, the difference was not significant.
Between the two survey waves, a lower proportion of parents agreed that their child needed the following skills to get a good job in future:
- STEM as a general set of skills (81% in 2022–23, down from 86% in 2020–21)
- science skills (76% in 2022–23, down from 81% in 2020–21)
- engineering skills (72% in 2022–23, down from 75% in 2020–21)
- mathematics skills (83% in 2022–23, down from 89% in 2020–21)
The proportion of parents who thought technology skills were important for future employment did not change significantly (87% in 2022–23, down from 89% in 2020–21).
A higher proportion of fathers than mothers agreed that STEM skills are important to get a good job. However, for mathematics skills, mothers and fathers were equal, with 83% in each group agreeing maths skills are important for their child to get a good job in future.
Parents of boys (meaning the eldest child is a boy) were significantly more likely than parents of girls (meaning the eldest child is a girl) to believe that engineering skills are important (76% for parents of boys compared to 67% for parents of girls).
Parents in metropolitan areas were more likely to view science and engineering as important (science 78%, engineering 74%), compared to parents in regional or remote areas (science 72%, engineering 67%).
Parents with a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background were more likely to view all STEM skills as important compared to non-CALD parents.
COVID-19 influence on parents’ attitudes to STEM
The importance of technology skills for future employment did not decrease significantly since the last survey, while all other STEM skills did. This may be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2022–23 parents were asked, for the first time, if COVID-19 influenced how likely they would be to encourage their child to study or work in each STEM area. Technology had the highest likelihood, with 51% of parents saying COVID-19 made them more likely to encourage their child to study or work in technology. Other STEM areas had a 41% likelihood or lower.
80% of parents said they had a general interest in STEM, with technology (81%) and science (77%) the most popular subjects. This is slightly higher than in 2020–21, however these changes are not statistically significant.
Interest levels were significantly higher among fathers than mothers across all STEM subjects. Close to a third of all parents had low or no interest in mathematics (35%) or engineering (32%).
Parents of boys showed higher levels of interest in engineering (70%, compared to 66% of parents of girls) and mathematics (67%, compared to 63% of parents of girls). These results are similar to the 2020-21 survey.
General interest in STEM was also significantly higher among parents from:
- metropolitan locations (83%), compared to parents from regional and remote locations (73%)
- higher socio-economic areas (84%), compared to parents from lower socio-economic areas (74%)
- CALD backgrounds (87%), compared to parents without a CALD background (78%).
Almost half of all parents (47%) reported having at least weekly discussions with their children about STEM topics. 11% of parents did not discuss STEM with their children at all –this is a significant decrease from 15% in 2020–21, suggesting higher engagement with STEM.
There were no significant differences in weekly conversations about STEM topics among fathers compared to mothers, or parents of boys compared to parents of girls. However, there have been changes among these groups since the last survey. Weekly conversations have significantly increased for mothers (46%, up from 38% in 2020–21) and parents of girls (48%, up from 42%). Meanwhile, there were no significant differences for fathers (48%, down from 51%) or parents of boys (46%, down from 47%).
Families held STEM conversations significantly more frequently when at least one parent had a STEM qualification themselves (56% had weekly conversations), compared to those without a STEM qualification (44% had weekly conversations).
More than three-quarters (78%) of parents reported having medium to high confidence in their ability to support their children with STEM. A significantly higher proportion of fathers (86%) reported confidence in supporting their children with STEM schoolwork compared to mothers (70%).
More parents reported medium or high confidence with technology (77%), science (74%) and mathematics (71%), than engineering (63%). Parents were least confident in engineering, with 37% reporting low or no confidence in this area.
Confidence in STEM in general was significantly higher among parents from:
- metropolitan locations (81%), compared to parents from regional and remote locations (72%)
- higher socioeconomic areas (80%), compared to parents from lower socioeconomic areas (75%).
Gender perceptions about STEM subjects and careers
Compare gender perceptions among parents across demographic groups. Explore parent views on how engaged girls and boys are in STEM subjects and parent perceptions on how suited they are to STEM careers.
Source: YouthInsight 2022–23
STEM gender perceptions by subject
The survey asked parents about the ease of engaging girls and boys in STEM.
- 58% of all parents agreed that it is easier to engage boys in STEM compared to other subject areas. Parents of boys were significantly more likely to agree with this (62%) than parents of girls (53%).
- 37% of all parents agreed that it is easier to engage girls in STEM compared to other subject areas. Parents of girls were indicatively more likely to agree with this (39%) than parents of boys (36%).
- 49% of parents agreed that it is easier to engage boys with STEM compared to girls. While 32% of parents agreed it is easier to engage girls with STEM than boys.
STEM gender perceptions by career
The survey asked parents whether boys or girls have a better chance to succeed in STEM.
- Fathers were more likely to agree that boys have a better chance to succeed in STEM careers compared to girls (47%), than they were to agree that girls have a better chance of success than boys (41%).
- Similarly, a higher proportion of mothers agreed that boys have a better chance of success in STEM careers compared to girls (37%), than girls do compared to boys (22%).
- Parents of boys were significantly more likely to agree that boys have a better chance to succeed in a STEM career (46%) compared to parents of girls (37%). They were also significantly more likely to agree that boys are better suited to STEM careers than girls (38%) compared to parents of girls (28%).
Some groups of parents were more likely to believe in girls’ or boys’ STEM engagement, suitability, or career success:
- 43% of parents from CALD backgrounds agreed it is easier to engage girls with STEM subjects compared to other subject areas. This is significantly higher than parents from non-CALD backgrounds (36%).
- Parents of boys were significantly more likely to agree boys have a better chance to succeed in a STEM career than girls (46%) compared to parents of girls (37%). However, there was no significant difference regarding whether girls have a better chance to succeed in a STEM career than boys (parents of girls and parents of girls were each 31%).
Despite this, more than half of all parents did not believe gender plays any role in a successful STEM career:
- 58% disagreed that boys have a better chance at succeeding in STEM compared to girls.
- 69% disagreed with the same statement regarding girls.
- 66% disagreed with the statement that boys are better suited to STEM careers than girls.
The data showed a correlation between parents’ perceptions of the suitability of different jobs to different genders, and the perceived importance of STEM skills to those jobs. Parents thought:
- computing and information technology jobs were perceived as better suited to men and were jobs where STEM skills were perceived as the most essential.
- pharmacy and teaching were the only jobs perceived as better suited to women, and STEM skills were perceived as essential for these roles.
- nursing was heavily associated with women, with STEM skills perceived as moderately essential.
These results were consistent with the STEM influencer teacher and career advisor survey.
Some groups of parents had more gendered views of jobs and STEM skills than others. The following groups of parents did not think that any jobs where STEM skills are essential were more suited to girls:
- parents with STEM qualifications
- parents working in a STEM job
- parents from CALD backgrounds.
About the data
The 2022–23 STEM influencer parents survey was a survey of 1,500 parents. The survey asked questions designed to understand how parents contribute to young people’s perceptions and attitudes to STEM. Respondents came from all states and territories across Australia.
To ensure survey results represented the population, weighting corrected for under- or over-representation of sub-groups by gender and state or territory.
Our department commissioned YouthInsight to carry out this survey as part of the Youth in STEM research project. In 2022–23, they also surveyed teachers and career advisers to complement the parent survey. They will conduct the Youth in STEM survey again in 2023–24.
Refer to the STEM influencer parent survey 2022–23 report for more detailed information and project methodology.
Read about our methodology.