Studies show that women researchers are squeezed out of science careers by structural barriers. The loss of such expertise is a significant waste of knowledge, talent and investment.
Gender equity and gender diversity impact our nation’s scientific performance and productivity. The most recently available data from the Department of Education and Training show that women continue to be underrepresented across STEMM fields, particularly at senior levels.
Students in STEMM
Data obtained and held by SAGE show that, including medicine and health, women make up just under half of all STEMM undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, but excluding these fields, women make up only a third of undergraduates and 40% of PhD students.
- Bachelor degree: there are 369,123 total students studying in a STEMM Bachelor degree (includes medicine and health).
- 180,382 are women (48.9%); and 188,741 men (51.1%)
- Excluding medicine and health, women make up only 33% of STEM undergraduate students
- PhD: 33,366 total students are working towards a PhD in STEMM
- 15,265 are women (45.8%); and 18,101 men (54.2%).
- Excluding medicine and health, women make up 40% of PhD students (STEM).
Academics in STEMM
The overall picture for women academics in STEMM looks relatively more egalitarian when we look at the total proportion of women in STEMM (excluding health and medical sciences), but excluding these disciplines, women make up less than one third of STEM academics.
Total STEMM: there are 28,724 academic staff and 2,598 research-only professional staff employed in STEMM
- 13,488 are women (43.0%) and 17,844 are men (57.0%)
- If we exclude medicine and health, women make up only 32.3% of academic and research staff (STEM)
Table 1: Total number of academic and research staff in STEMM fields by gender, Department of Education and Training data, 2014
|Agriculture, Environment and Related Studies||544||36.7%||938||63.3%||1482|
|Architecture and Building||290||37.6%||481||62.4%||771|
|Engineering and Related Technology||851||18.3%||3787||81.7%||4638|
|Natural and Physical Sciences (other than Mathematics)||3762||40.7%||5483||59.3%||9245|
|All Natural and Physical Sciences||3988||39.0%||6248||61.0%||10236|
|Total STEM (excluding Medical Science)||5972||32.3%||12510||67.7%||18482|
|Medical Sciences and Health||7516||58.5%||5334||41.5%||12850|
|Total Other Disciplines (non-STEMM)||12266||49.7%||12422||50.3%||24688|
Gender disparity by level
Looking at gender and levels, women make up around half of junior academics but around one fifth of senior professors.
- Level A: there is a total of 6,038 junior lecturers in STEMM (Level A)
- 3,029 are women (50.2%); 3,009 are men (49.8%)
- Excluding medicine and health, women make up approximately 42% of junior (STEM) academics
- Level E: there is a total of 4,007 senior professors (Level E)
- 825 are women (20.6%); and 3,182 are men (79.4%)
- Excluding medicine and health, women make up only 14% of FTE positions among senior (STEM) professors
If we look at sub-disciplines, the gender differences are even more stark.
- Natural and Physical Sciences (excluding Maths): Women comprise 47% of junior academics at Level A (1193 women), but only 16% of senior professors at Level E (218 women)
- Mathematics: Women make up 28.5% of junior academics (51 women), but only 12% of Level E professors in Mathematics (23 women)
- Medical Sciences and Health: Women make up 66% of junior academics (1399 women), but only 33% of senior professors (466 women)
- Agriculture, Environment and Related Studies: Women represent 49% of junior academics (180 women) but only 13.5% of Level E professors (21 women)
- Engineering and Related Technology: Women make up 23.5% of junior academics (190 women), but just 9% of senior faculty (65 women)
- Architecture and Building: Women are 51% of junior academics (31 women), yet only 16% of professors (21 women)
- Information Technology: Women comprise 26% of Level A staff (36 women), and 16% of Level E academics (34 women)
- All STEMM: Women make up 50% of all junior academic FTE positions (3,029 women), though just 21% of all STEMM professors (825 women of 4007 Level E academics).
Why this is so important
Australia needs to urgently address barriers of gender equity to:
- retain our best scientists and innovators to ensure Australia effectively maintains research and development excellence
- keep our best and brightest minds in the fields in which they have the most potential to deliver
- ensure social and economic returns on the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent each year on training women scientists, by supporting them.
Current approaches to tackling gender equity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) have been fragmented and for the most part unsuccessful.
This silent brain drain affecting 50% of our best and brightest scientists is a situation that Australia cannot afford.
To find out how the Australian Academy of Science is helping institutions improve gender equity in STEMM read more about the SAGE Pilot.
You can help to champion the cause of women in STEMM by supporting SAGE.
- Join our mailing list to keep up to date with SAGE initiative activities
- Donate directly to the SAGE initiative
1. Data provided by Department of Education & Training. Data held by SAGE.
2. STEMM is defined as:
- Engineering and Related Fields;
- Information Technology;
- Natural & Physical Sciences;
- Agriculture, Environment & Related; and
- Architecture and Building
3. This update was issued on 22nd May 2016. Data presented represents total STEMM staff numbers among full-time and fractional full-time academic and research staff.
Previous updates 9th May 2016. Updated data representing FTE positions. Earlier published data are available here.
31 March 2016. The data represented in tables and figures referred to a total count of work contract type.