Australian women are making slow progress if any at breaking into Science and Engineering, the latest report has found.
Released by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, the 2020 edition of the Australia’s STEM Workforce report indicated that progress amongst women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has been slow at best.
According to the report, women in 2006 constituted 8 percent of the STEM qualified labour force for those with VET qualifications and 27 percent of the STEM qualified workforce for those with university qualifications.
Ten years later in 2016, those numbers had barely moved, with women making up 8 percent of the STEM labour force for those with VET qualifications and 27 percent of the STEM workforce for those with university qualifications.
Moreover, women in science and engineering remain at a disadvantage compared with men when it comes to career advancement and incomes.
All up, 20 percent of full-time men with STEM qualifications had an annual income of $104,000 or greater.
Amongst women with STEM qualifications who work full-time, this figure drops to 9 percent.
Partly, this reflects a lack of women in senior roles.
Whilst women make up 28 percent of the STEM workforce, only 22 percent of manager positions and 13 percent of executive positions in STEM are held by women.
That said, the discrepancy in incomes is not fully explained by differences in seniority levels.
Of women with university STEM qualifications who make it through to manager/executive levels, 48 percent and 65 percent of those with university/VET qualifications respectively earn greater than $104,000.
For their male counterparts, those percentages increase to 63 percent and 74 percent respectively.
According to the report, women face barriers in several areas.
Not surprisingly, women with STEM qualifications spend more time compared with their male counterparts on family and domestic responsibilities.
Amongst women with STEM qualifications, 23 percent and 19 percent of those with VET/University qualifications regularly perform five hours per week or more of unpaid domestic work.
For their male counterparts, those numbers fall to 9 percent and 8 percent respectively.
Also unsurprising is that career prospects of women in STEM are impacted by having children.
Whereas 93 percent of STEM (university) qualified women who did not have children were still employed at age 35, that number falls to 78 percent for those with children.
Beyond this, however, the report highlights other barriers to female advancement in science and engineering.
Biased hiring practices, a lack of workplace flexibility and the tendency for women to have time out of the workforce serve to restrict their opportunities for career progression, it said.
Furthermore, older women face particular societal barriers to employment that are not as common for their male counterparts, such as a perceived lack of relevant skills and a perceived limited ability to acquire new skills.
Further barriers exist in STEM as well as in the broader workforce, the report notes.
These include stereotypes and bias that deter girls from studying STEM subjects at school, a lack of job security in workplaces, the impact of career disruptions, social and cultural barriers, and gender discrimination and sexual harassment in STEM workplaces.