04 November 2020

Diversity & STEM: bridging the gap

It’s evident STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers are expected to experience rapid growth in the coming years.

While engineering and technology candidates are highly sought-after in the STEM sector and well paid, they’re also heavily male-dominated.  

In my role as a STEM recruitment consultant, I’ve seen a number of organisations encouraging the hiring of women candidates and are openly addressing gender disparity. I also recognise the Australian government’s commitment to increasing gender equity in STEM education and careers.

 “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas” Marie Curie

Despite progressive efforts, gender inequality persists across the country, with women constituting almost 50% of the labour market. There are only 28% of women in STEM fields as compared to 72% of men, with a few factors currently contributing to the situation:

  • Lack of role models and mentoring: We need more women in STEM to help inspire our young people; women who are role models that can share their success stories. Some that I look up to include Marie Curie (the first woman scientist to win a noble prize), Katherine Johnson (NASA Space Scientist), Augusta Ada King (Countess of Lovelace & Mathematician) and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (Inventor & Computer Scientist).
  • Gender pay gap: Currently, Australia’s national gender pay gap is 14% as per WGEA’s (Workplace Gender Equality Agency) 2020 data report. State-wise, the highest is 22.7% in Western Australia and industry-wise, the highest is 24.1% within professional, scientific and technical services.
  • Career breaks: Around 70% percent of women think that taking maternity/parental leave was detrimental to their career. Did you know, only 1 in 20 Australian fathers take parental leave?

“We all need hands on deck and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.” – Michelle Obama

Making a difference

In my role, I’m accountable for making women visible across the STEM field, and I also:

  • believe there’s a need to highlight their skills and represent them equally
  • don’t ask candidates their current salary, instead – I give them a salary range for the role
  • consider flexible working arrangements
  • consult hiring managers to ensure we do not allow these gender biases.

Together with candidates and clients, we can contribute to equal opportunities for women.

We need to make the change happen.

Sources: Professionals Australia survey, Workplace Gender Equality Agency and office of chief scientist.

Written by Poorvi Mehta

Poorvi Mehta is a scientific recruitment consultant with over three years’ experience within FMCG, Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices industries.

Poorvi started her career as a future recruiter with PERSOLKELLY and is now focussed on growing STEM recruitment in Sydney. She has a particular passion for championing diversity within the industry.