One-third female STEM professionals to leave profession within five years: New report

14 December

Almost a third of women in science, technology, engineering and maths professions expect to leave their profession within five years, according to a new report by Professionals Australia.

The Slower Track: Women in the STEM Professions Survey Report, released today indicates retention rates for skilled female STEM professionals will increasingly become a problem.

“Employers must immediately take heed of these findings and address career barriers for women in STEM professions,” said Chris Walton, CEO of Professionals Australia.

“Professional women considering leaving their roles in the next five years cite lack of career advancement and the need for change or to gain experience as their main motivators. These are issues employers can, and must, take steps to address.

“The Government’s Innovation Statement highlights the importance of our STEM workforce. But we cannot build a knowledge economy if women are underrepresented in maths, science and engineering.

“Women make up 28 percent of Australia’s STEM professionals. Employers, government and industry must take steps now to increase that differential, rather than allow it to decline. Our global competitiveness depends on it.

“Fixing the gender pay gap is the first step. Woman in male-dominated professions generally earn less than their mail counterparts with equivalent experience. Twenty six percent of survey respondents said their employer rarely or never proactively ensured the men and women had equal opportunity to progress.

The report surveys the workplace experience of women in STEM across a range of themes including remuneration, retirement savings, part-time and flexible work arrangements, work-life balance, workplace culture, attrition and retention and discrimination.

“Women still face gender-based discrimination, harassment and bullying in their workplaces. A staggering fifty one percent of respondents reported having been directly discriminated against during the course of their employment, seventy eight percent on the basis of gender.

“Workplace culture is a big contributor. Sixty percent of woman in engineering professions, for example, say women are required to prove themselves where men are automatically assumed capable. Forty one percent agreed that in their workplace, advice of a technical nature was less likely to be listened to when provided by a woman.

“Research shows 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills and Australian employers report experiencing difficulties recruiting STEM-qualified graduates and staff.

“Addressing the issues raised in this report is not only a matter of justice and equity – fully realising Australia’s productivity potential and innovative capability into the future depends on a sustainable STEM skills pipeline. We need to effectively attract, develop and retain women in the STEM workforce,” said Mr Walton.

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