For any country, ensuring the equal participation of all genders in every field is imperative from the human rights and scientific development perspective. The world has woken up to this fact primarily in the last century and it has been an upward journey for women since then. However, the road ahead is much longer than what we have collectively achieved together.
Australian education system inculcates the basics of STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) in the curriculum from a very early age. It helps in instilling creativity, innovation, problem-solving and industry-defined skills which in turn prepares students for an advanced future.
Though the country is one of the pioneers in the STEM field, there has been a concerning under-representation of women, both in education and the industry. The government of Australia has become cognizant of this issue quite early and consciously been working towards reforming its STEM field by making it gender-inclusive and diverse in nature. To aid this vision, the government has been devising a multitude of strategies that motivate and support women to pursue STEM degrees and make them more visible in the workforce.
The STEM student population in Australia
STEM courses are highly popular and have a strong foothold in Australia. In fact, Australia has been seeing a rise in the number of students taking up STEM courses. Nearly 25% of Australian university students are currently pursuing STEM degrees.
Natural and Physical Sciences (8.4% of all enrollments), Engineering (7.9%), and Information Technology (4.7%) constitute the largest fields in STEM. These numbers are only expected to grow over the years as STEM courses in Australia have been garnering more attention from international students as well. This is largely due to the fact that the quality of education and career opportunities available to these international students, after graduating from Australia is vast and great by number.
Gender Representation in STEM
Like most other countries in the world, there has been a significant gap in the gender representation ratio in the STEM field in Australia. Female participation in STEM education and in the workforce has constantly been dwindling over the years. Here are the statistics that project the current scenario: the exact ratio of women in STEM in Australia.
Source: The data was obtained from abs.gov.au
The female participation ratio seems to be thriving in the areas of Healthcare and Agriculture studies. However, the gap between the number of male and female workers especially in the areas of Engineering and information technology leaves a lot to desire. The ground reality could be clearly ascertained from the above graph, and it calls for sincere efforts towards achieving greater gender equity in all areas.
Women in STEM jobs in Australia
Australia offers a plethora of career opportunities for STEM graduates. An analysis of the labor force data by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business indicates that the employment rate in STEM occupations is 1.9 times bigger compared to others. It has also forecasted an 11.6% growth rate in STEM occupations in the next 5 years.
However, very similar to the enrollment statistics, the employment and salary data also clearly says there are comparatively fewer women who take up jobs in the STEM field after completing their education. In 2019, only 22% of STEM jobs requiring a university qualification are occupied by women.
The Summary Report submitted by STEM Equity Monitor in 2020, has provided other key data of women STEM graduates earning in the work field.
The median income for women who graduated from undergraduate courses in the fields of:
- Agriculture and environmental studies — $55,000
- Science and mathematics — $60,000
The median income for women who completed postgraduate coursework in the following STEM fields:
- Agriculture and environmental studies — $69,000
- Computing and information systems — $76,000
- Engineering — $79,000
- Science and mathematics — $75,000
Government initiatives to encourage women in STEM
The government of Australia has been taking several initiatives to put an end to this disparity in the workforce. Only 9% of women participating in higher education were enrolled in a STEM course in 2018. This proportion has remained fairly the same since 2015.
Over the years, several programs initiated by the government at both primary and higher education levels to instill interest in female students and encourage their participation in STEM courses.
Some of these revolutionary programs are:
- Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE): The government has invested $2 million to support the expansion of SAGE. This was initiated to encourage more involvement of women in STEM higher education and in the research fields.
- Women in IT Executive Mentoring Program: will support talented women with IT skills within the Australian Public Service and increase the gender inclusivity of senior IT employees.
- The National Science and Innovation Agenda (NSIA) has invested $2 million on Male Champions of Change for STEM (MCC-STEM), wherein 17 male STEM leaders step in to resolve the gender disparity issue in the workspace.
- The Women's Economic Security Statement (WESS) was launched in 2018 and it has invested over $35.6 million over the course of four years. It promotes women’s economic safety by focusing on key aspects like workforce participation, earning potential and economic independence of women.
STEM Scholarships for women in Australia
Scholarships serve as great support for students to pursue their dreams relentlessly, which is why the Australian Government has been investing nearly $770 million per annum to provide monetary support to the international students. These scholarships financially aid the students by covering their tuition fees, accommodation expenses and even other expenses like textbooks etc.
There are exclusive scholarships available for women from the government and the educational institutions in Australia. Following are some of the popular STEM scholarships for women in the undergraduate and postgraduate level
- Hypatia Scholarship for Mathematically Talented Women This is offered to female students pursuing full-time and have enrolled in either the Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences or the Bachelor of Quantitative Finance at UniSA. The students can either receive a scholarship of $5000 or an equivalent contribution will be made to the first year tuition fee.
- SA Water Women in IT Scholarship The Scholarship offers financial aid to women pursuing undergraduate or honours degrees in information technology at Flinders University. Four Annual scholarships amounting up to $2,500 each will be provided.
- L'Oreal For Women in Science Fellowship This supports accomplished and recognized women in the field of research by providing financially.
- Australia APEC Women in Research Fellowship This is in partnership with Australian education and research institutes which aims at supporting high achieving women in the research field
- Toptal Mentoring Scholarships This scholarship aims at providing strong women leaders for the Future. This offers a $10,000 scholarship along with 1 year of mentorship as well.
Today, there are over 7 lakh international students in Australia. Most of the scholarships and student support initiatives from the government are non-discriminatory. They are totally accessible to international students as much as they are to the Australian students. Aspiring women from developing countries, therefore, should consider studying in Australia. They can make the best use of the country’s resources and support programs and carve themselves a career path in Australia. The bright future that Australia has been envisioning in the STEM field can be made possible only with the equal participation and contribution of people of all genders and different backgrounds. When more and more women start pursuing their STEM education and career afterwards, the benefit becomes mutual for the country and themselves resulting in overall development.
If you are one of those women aspiring to have a STEM career in Australia, then AECC Global is just a click away from guiding you to your dream education. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity and contact AECC Global immediately for further information!