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Women in STEM and Trades

Last updated: 15/12/2017 9:21 PM
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The department works with Western Australia’s business sector, community organisations, and other public sector agencies to support increased career choices for girls and women.

Female participation in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) training and careers is significantly lower than male participation, particularly in non-health, engineering and related technologies, and information technology fields. This is despite evidence showing that the number of jobs requiring STEM skills is increasing. Between 2006 and 2011, it was estimated that jobs requiring STEM skills grew at about 1.5 times the rate of other jobs – by 14 per cent compared to nine per cent - and that demand for STEM skills is anticipated to continue. Women’s lower rate of STEM skills attainment can also limit their career progression. A ground breaking Perth-focussed report published in 2015, Filling the Pool, found that experience in operational roles requiring STEM skills was regarded as almost a pre-requisite to reach senior roles in most Perth corporate organisations.

Women are also significantly underrepresented in trades training and trades workforces.  For more than a decade, women have comprised about ten per cent of West Australian apprentices. Women are estimated to comprise 25 per cent or less of the workforce in the construction (15 per cent); mining (21 per cent); manufacturing (23 per cent); transport, postal and warehousing (24 per cent); and electricity, gas, water and waste services (25 per cent) industries.

One initiative undertaken by the department to support the increased participation of women in these fields is the Women in STEM and Trades Pledge.

Women leading the way in STEM and Trades

To view profiles of women currently pursuing a range of careers in STEM and trades in Western Australia view Women working in STEM fields and trades

Women's Consultative Forum: Attracting Talent - Promoting Non-traditional Education Paths and Careers to Girls

The State Government supports girls and women to study STEM and trades-related subjects in their school years, through their vocational education and training (VET) and higher education studies, and to pursue STEM careers and trades.

In 2015, the Premier hosted the first in a series of women's consultative forums to develop strategies to address issues impacting women's employment and economic independence. The focus of the first forum was 'Attracting talent – Promoting Non-traditional Education Paths and Careers to Girls'. Among the forum's participants were senior representatives of the following organisations:

  • CEOs for Gender Equity
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Chevron
  • Chamber of Minerals and Energy
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Training and Workforce Development
  • Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia
  • Methodist Ladies College
  • Programmed
  • School Curriculum and Standards Authority
  • TAFE
  • Technology and Industry Advisory Council
  • Trade UP Australia
  • University of Western Australia
  • Water Corporation of Western Australia
  • Women in Mining and Resources WA
  • Women in Technology in WA.

A range of initiatives, including the Women in STEM and Trades Pledge, are being implemented to advance the forum's overarching strategies of 'promoting the benefits, rebranding, and investing in schools and teachers'.

Launched at the forum, the $1.2 million Expanding career options for women scholarship program provides up to 400 scholarships to encourage women to take up training in traditionally male dominated industries, trades and occupations where women comprise less than 25 per cent of the total workforce. The scholarships are available to women and employers participating in training in more than 170 eligible qualifications.