The gender pay gap is wider in the STEM sector than the rest of the workforce, according to disappointing new survey results.
The annual Scientists Employment and Remuneration Survey was conducted by Science & Technology Australia (STA) and Professionals Australia earlier this year. Thousands of STEM workers took part to share their salaries, payment satisfaction rate and whether they intended to stay with their current employer.
“Women in STEM earn 16 per cent less than their male colleagues, which is an even bigger gap than the already shameful average Australian gender pay gap of 14.6 per cent,” said Kylie Walker, the CEO of STA, who added that new policies were needed to address the issue.
STEM industry at risk of losing women
One of the reasons behind the gap may be STEM-qualified women are less likely to be employed as STEM professionals or managers, and more likely to work in administrative roles – as shown by a report released by Australia’s Chief Scientist in 2016. Also, if it seems as if most of your senior uni lecturers are male, you’re not wrong: women make up less than one-third of STEM academic and research staff in Australian universities.
Of the women who took part in the survey, about half of respondents saying their workplaces did not have policies to promote diversity or deal with discrimination. Many cited the gender pay gap and lack of career advancement as a reason for leaving the industry. A third of female engineers aged between 25 and 35 said they were intending to leave their profession in the next five years.
So what’s being done to improve equity?
One step in the right direction is the SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity) Program, which recently got a proposed boost from the Government in the 2019-2020 Budget Statement. SAGE aims to raise awareness of gender equity and diversity issues and support initiatives aimed at encouraging women, trans and gender-diverse people to participate in STEM. Their 45 member organisations (universities and research organisations across Australia) have committed to addressing unequal gender representation and tackling the gender pay gap (read more here).
The STA report’s 30 recommendations include linking management performance to diversity and anti-discrimination accountability, gathering and monitoring gender equality data and options for part-time work at senior management levels. Reducing the gender pay gap would not only improve equity, but boost STEM research and innovation as a whole.
“We must improve equality and conditions to attract and retain the best and brightest into the workforce that will create solutions for the future,” said Kylie.
Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.