Why has UNE launched WSTEM?

There is extensive research that indicates that women are under-represented in the STEM disciplines. For example:

  1. The proportion of women employed in STEM fields in Australia is low in comparison with other OECD countries. This is particularly marked in engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences. 1
  2. In the USA, females represent 24% of the STEM workforce2. Notably, the proportion of females employed in STEM careers is half the number of female STEM graduates. Furthermore, “women who have advanced degrees in STEM are far more likely to leave related occupations than women in other professions.”3
  3. This trend is also reflected in Australian data where there is a notable loss of females in STEM from university (55% of STEM graduates) to the workforce (42% employed in STEM-based careers).  There is an even greater loss of female graduates in the transition to the workforce in the Prime* STEM disciplines, where only 33% are female graduates, and this falls to only 12% of the workforce being women.  NB:*Prime STEM disciplines (including, mathematics, engineering and the physical sciences) are those other than allied health or allied economic STEM disciplines.4 
  4. The 2013 report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies1 includes two key findings that promote the use of mentoring programs, and course and career counselling to effectively encourage young women to follow STEM pathways.

To address these issues, the program matches first year female STEM students at UNE with mentors who have established careers in STEM such as UNE academics in the Schools of Science & Technology, Environmental and Rural Science and Education, UNE alumni and local professionals including school teachers.

The program will build awareness of the benefits of a successful career in STEM, while helping students recognise and address potential issues and roadblocks to a sustained and successful career for females in STEM. Additionally, the program will support the development of skills and knowledge that will help participants achieve their career goals. The program targets first year female students as they make the transition to tertiary studies in STEM disciplines, thereby ensuring they are prepared for challenges that may lie ahead. It will lay the foundations for students to make appropriate and effective choices in pursuing and achieving their career goals during and after university and ultimately make a successful transition to an ongoing career in STEM.

References

  1. Marginson, S, Tytler, R, Freeman, B and Roberts, K (2013). STEM: Country Comparisons. Final Report for the Australian Council of Learned Academies (PDF)
  2. Women in Stem: A Gender Gap to Innovation, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Aug 2011. Retrieved from Women in STEM: A gender gap to innovation
  3. Dean, D. &  Koster. J, (2014). Equitable Solutions for retaining a robust STEM workforce (2ed) Academic Press.
  4. Female Participation in STEM study and work in South Australia 2012. Report for the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST).