8TH INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SCIENCE ASSEMBLY UN HEADQUARTERS
10 February 2023
Statement by H.E. The Hon Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Australian Mission to the United Nations
Australia is proud to co-sponsor the 8th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly, dedicated to the role of women and girls and science in achieving innovative, sustainable, and equitable development.
Our international community faces significant technological, environmental, and economic challenges, of ever-increasing scale and complexity. We need everyone at the table to overcome these challenges, including women and girls. Science, innovation, and technology are at the core of the international community’s domestic and collective responses, and the foundations on which we are building a future for succeeding generations. Women and girls must play a critical role here, at all levels. And yet, the international community is still failing to facilitate this.
In Australia, the data illustrate the gender inequities starkly.
Women are significantly underrepresented in STEM occupations, that is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and there has been minimal progress in participation rates in the last decade. In 2021, only 15% of STEM occupations were held by women. Women represented 23% of STEM senior management and only 8% of CEOs. The STEM gender pay gap was 18%. These inequities mirror those in our education systems. In 2020, women represented just 37% of students in STEM university courses.
There is strong political will to remedy these inequities in Australia.
Every year, we produce the STEM Equity Monitor, a national data resource which presents the current state of gender equity in STEM in Australia. It follows girls’ and women’s participation rates in STEM through early education to the workforce, and informs policy responses to increase women and girls’ participation.
Last year, we launched a Pathway to Diversity in STEM Review, examining the impact of existing Women in STEM programs, and the cultural and structural barriers that limit entry and retention in STEM professions. Recommendations from the review are expected to attract, promote, and retain diverse groups in STEM overall.
Additionally, this Assembly heard today from Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith. Professor Smith champions diversity and inclusivity in STEM studies and careers, mobilising Australia’s business leaders, educators, and policymakers to increase the participation of women and girls. Crucially, the Ambassador engages with students, influencing and inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals. Her work reached over 72,000 educators and young people in 2021.
Finally, we must also acknowledge that the institutional policies of government, business, and academia alone will not be sufficient to achieve the change we need. There are cultural biases driving discrimination that can result in women seeking careers outside of STEM or discourage girls from even beginning them.
The upcoming Commission on the Status of Women is a prime opportunity to continue and expand on today’s discussion.
Its priority theme, focusing on innovation and technological change, education, and empowerment, could not be more relevant. Australia is organising a side event on empowering women in green STEM through education on 7 March. We hope to see you there.