Gender inequities witnessed starkly in Australia

The International Day of Women in Science Assembly, honoring women and girls’ contribution to innovative, sustainable, and equitable development, has Australia as a proud co-sponsor.

The scope and complexity of our global community’s technological, environmental, and economic challenges are constantly growing. We need everyone at the table to solve these difficulties, particularly those facing women and girls. The foundations on which we are constructing a future for future generations are science, innovation, and technology, which are at the centre of the local and global reactions of the international community. Women and girls must play a crucial role at every level. Yet the international community needs to catch up in making this possible.

The figures clearly show the gender disparities in Australia.

There has been slight improvement in participation rates for women in STEM fields over the past ten years, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Only 15% of STEM jobs were held by women in 2021. Only 8% of CEOs were female, compared to 23% of senior management in STEM. The gender pay gap in STEM was 18%. Similar injustices exist in our educational systems as well. Only 37% of students in STEM university courses in 2020 were female.

In Australia, there is a strong political commitment to addressing these injustices.

The STEM Equity Monitor, a nationwide data source that provides the current gender equity in STEM in Australia, is something we produce each year. It tracks the percentage of women and girls who participate in STEM fields from early childhood through the workforce and informs policy initiatives to boost women and girls’ engagement.

We started a Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review last year, which looked at the impact of current Women in STEM initiatives and the structural and cultural hurdles that prevent women from entering and staying in STEM fields. It is anticipated that the review’s recommendations will help STEM fields in general, attract, promote, and retain diverse populations.

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, also spoke at this assembly today. To enhance the participation of women and girls, Professor Smith mobilizes Australia’s business leaders, educators, and legislators. She is a champion of diversity and inclusivity in STEM studies and careers. The Ambassador must interact with students to influence and motivate the upcoming STEM workforce. In 2021, her efforts impacted more than 72,000 teachers and students.

The institutional policies of the government, business, and academia alone will not be enough to bring about the change we need; we must also admit. Cultural prejudices that underlie discrimination may lead to women selecting occupations outside of STEM or deter girls from even starting them.

The impending Commission on the Status of Women is a great chance to build on today’s conversation.

Its main topic, centred on technological advancement, education, and empowerment, could not be more current. On March 7, Australia will host a session on empowering women in green STEM fields through education. There, we hope to see you.

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