Department of Family and Community Services

Stem key to advancing women's equality

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05 Oct 2016

The Women in NSW 2016 Education and Learning Report has revealed women are more likely than men to complete postgraduate degrees in STEM-related fields.

In 2015, 32.9 per cent of women’s postgraduate course completions were in a STEM-related field, compared to 30.7 per cent of men’s completions. However, a larger proportion of men’s undergraduate degrees were in STEM-related fields compared to women’s.

Women are continuing to lead the way in higher education, with more women than men completing both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

NSW Minister for Women Pru Goward said she was pleased to see females choosing to study postgraduate STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which can have a long-term impact on their economic success and independence.

“Careers reliant on the study of STEM subjects can earn women up to double the salaries of vocations women have traditionally pursued,” Ms Goward said.

“While the gender gap in graduate salaries is lower than what it was in 2012, male graduates are still earning on average $3000 a year more than female graduates.

“If we want to achieve gender equity and a more diverse workforce, we need to continue encouraging women and girls to study STEM subjects and work in industries reliant on these skills,” Ms Goward said.

While boys are still outperforming girls in NAPLAN numeracy tests, the gender gap in scores has decreased since 2013 and the difference is now marginal.

The report shows the gender gap in apprenticeships and traineeships has widened in recent years, with the proportion of female technical and trade trainees at a 10-year low.

“To witness a declining number of women in trades is disappointing. The NSW Government continues to maximise career choices for women and this includes encouraging women into male-dominated roles.

“We have seen significant success through our Investing in Women Funding Program, which contributes up to $25,000 for partnership projects which focus on girls’ and women’s participation in non-traditional trades,” Ms Goward said.

The report analyses numerous areas of women and girls education. It is the first of a series of four themed reports that Women NSW, a policy unit within NSW Health, will release over the coming year.

To officially launch the report, Ms Goward hosted “Talking Women” at Parliament House, a quarterly forum held to discuss key issues facing women.

Ms Goward hosted a discussion on the topic of women in education and learning in NSW, with panelists comprising women in senior leadership roles across the public and private sectors.

Representatives from peak women’s advocacy groups, the public sector, academia and private sector organisations attended.

The Women in NSW reports have been published annually since 2012. The reports examine gender equity against indicators in five key areas including health and wellbeing, work and financial security, leadership, safety and justice and today’s forum topic, education and learning.

To access the Women in NSW 2016 Education and Learning Report, visit

Key findings for 2015

  • Girls outperformed boys in all NAPLAN domains, except numeracy. However, the gender gap in numeracy scores has decreased since 2013 to 10.4 mean score points or less.
  • More girls completed secondary school compared to boys (77% vs 68%).
  • 32.9% of women’s postgraduate completions were in STEM-related fields, compared with 30.7% of men’s postgraduate completions.
  • 36.5% of women’s undergraduate completions were in STEM-related fields, compared with 44.5% of men’s undergraduate completions.
  • The gender gap in STEM course enrolments is greater in Year 12 (13.7%) compared with Year 10 (8.5%).
  • The gender gap in graduate salaries ($3000) was lower than the gap in 2012 ($5000).
  • The gender gap in apprenticeships and traineeships has decreased dramatically over the past 20 years but widened in recent years. Women made up 34.9% of
  • commencements and 41.2% of completions.
  • Aboriginal women are well-represented in VET courses but under-represented in undergraduate and postgraduate completions.
  • 83.5% of the primary and 59.5% of the secondary school teaching workforce are women.