This page belongs to: STEM Equity Monitor

STEM in the Australian Public Service workforce

STEM plays an important part in the Australian Public Service (APS) across a variety of STEM and non‑STEM roles.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills provided by a STEM education help ensure government policy, programs and research are evidence-based.

The annual APS Employee Census provides data on workforce composition, including people working in STEM roles.

Publicly funded research agencies (PFRAs) are APS agencies whose main focus is research. PFRAs typically employ a high proportion of STEM-qualified people.

APS workforce by role

Compare numbers and employment levels of women and men working in the APS in STEM roles, non-STEM roles and health roles.

Source: Australian Public Service Commission (unpublished)

Data insights

In 2022, 61% of APS Employee Census respondents were women.

16% of respondents reported doing one of the following STEM roles as their main type of work:

  • data and research
  • engineering and technical
  • information and communications technology and digital solutions
  • science.

Only 36% of APS employees working in STEM roles were women. This proportion has remained stable since 2020.

In comparison, women made up 66% of employees in non-STEM roles and 77% of health roles.

STEM roles overall

Most STEM roles in the APS had a classification level of APS 5 or 6. The proportion of women in STEM roles at that level and above was substantially lower than men:

  • Women working at APS 5 or 6 level made up 17% of all STEM roles in the APS. Men at APS 5 or 6 level made up 27%.
  • Women at Executive Level 1 (EL1) made up 10% of all STEM roles. EL1 men made up 20%.
  • Women at EL2 made up 4% of all STEM roles. EL2 men made up 9%.

STEM roles at executive level

Overall there was a higher proportion of women in EL1 and EL2 roles (56%). However, only one third (33%) of EL1 and EL2 STEM roles were filled by women.

The overall proportion of women and men at Senior Executive Service (SES) levels was about equal (53% women compared to 47% men). However, only 37% of SES-level STEM roles were filled by women.

2019 workforce by education field

Compare the numbers and employment levels of women and men with STEM qualifications working in the APS in 2019.

Source: Australian Public Service Commission (unpublished)

Data insights

In 2019, the APS employee census recorded the higher education qualification of respondents.

21% of respondents reported a STEM field as the main focus of their qualification. 34% of those respondents were women.

Women’s representation was highest at the Graduate APS level, where they made up 41% of STEM qualified graduates. It was lowest at Executive Level 2 (26%).

2% of STEM-qualified women worked at SES levels, compared to 3% of non‑STEM-qualified women. The APS 5 and 6 levels had the largest number of STEM-qualified women (2135, or 35%).

2022 PFRA workforce by role

Compare numbers and employment levels of women and men working at PFRAs in STEM, non-STEM and health occupations since 2021.

Source: Publicly funded research agency data, 2022 (unpublished)

Data insights

In 2022, 70% of all people working in the sampled PFRAs were in STEM occupations. This is one percentage point lower than 2021.

Women made up 29% of people in STEM occupations, a one percentage point increase from 2021. In comparison, women made up 60% of non-STEM occupations in PFRAs.

The largest number of women in STEM were working at the EL1 level (871, or 35% of total women in STEM occupations). The largest number of men in STEM were also at the EL1 level (2,216 or 36% of total men in STEM occupations).

The gender split for STEM employees at the EL1 level was 28% women and 72% men. Although the EL1 level has the highest number of STEM employees, it has one of the lowest proportions of women in STEM roles.

The EL2 level had the largest difference between men and women in STEM roles – 20% of EL2 STEM roles were held by women and 80% were held by men. This was a slight improvement on 2021, where the gender split was 18% women and 82% men.

In 2022, women held 18 of 52 SES positions for STEM occupations. That’s 35% of SES STEM roles, a 1 percentage point increase from 2021. 1% of women in STEM were working at an SES level, compared to 2% of women in non-STEM occupations. 1% of men in STEM were working at an SES level, compared to 4% of men in non-STEM occupations.

About the data

APS Employee Census

The APS Employee Census is an voluntary annual survey for all eligible APS employees. The data is self-reported and reflects the classifications respondents held at the time of the survey, rather than their substantive classification level. 

In 2022, the Employee Census asked respondents to best describe the type of work they do. We defined whether these roles were STEM, health or non-STEM based on our methodology. People in senior positions may describe their role as ‘senior executive’, in which case their responses would not be captured in STEM.

The response options for job families on the APS Employee Census correspond to the APS Job Family Framework. The 2022 Employee Census was the first to employ the 2021 edition of this framework. The STEM Equity Monitor uses the updated framework (with the exception of the ‘science and health’ job family) and has applied it to past data. This means some job families have been renamed. The job family ‘data and research’ has changed from non-STEM to STEM, as most roles in that family are now STEM-qualified occupations.

While the 2021 edition of the APS Job Family Framework combines ‘science and health’ into one job family, we split these in the STEM Equity Monitor. This is determined using benchmarks from previous years.

In 2019, the Employee Census asked respondents about the main focus of their higher education qualification (university and VET). This question has not been part of the Employee Census since then. The 2019 interactive data above only includes APS employees who reported having a higher education qualification.

In 2022, 120,662 APS employees responded, representing 83% of the eligible APS workforce. This is an increase compared to previous years. In 2021, 109,537 APS employees responded, representing 77% of the eligible APS workforce. In 2019, 104,471 APS employees responded (77% of the eligible workforce).

See Employee Census explanatory guides and agency reports on the APSC website:

PFRA data

This data does not cover all publicly funded research agencies. Workforce data was provided by the following agencies:

  • Australian Antarctic Division
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • Defence Science and Technology Group
  • Geoscience Australia.

Participating agencies defined which occupations in their agency were STEM, health and non-STEM. They based this either on our methodology or through a self-determined analysis.

Agencies also aligned classification levels in the organisation to equivalent levels in the Australian Public Service if they do not use standard APS classifications. In some cases classification levels were approximately aligned to reporting broadbands of APS classifications based on publicly available APS classification band descriptors, for the purpose of this exercise.

Agencies reported numbers of employees who did not identify as man/woman or preferred not to disclose gender. These employees are not presented in the analysis due to small sample size.

Some staff in senior positions may be described as being in management or leadership occupations, so may not be captured within STEM.

Read more about our methodology and this data.