Does industry segregation STEM from the subjects girls and boys choose?

To celebrate and raise awareness of World Youth Skills Day on Sunday 15 July, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) is encouraging Australians to reject the idea of ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ subjects in school.

Australia’s workforce is highly gender segregated by industry and WGEA data shows that average remuneration in female-dominated organisations is lower than in male-dominated organisations.

Stereotypes about the kinds of work women and men ‘should’ do has played a major role in steering them into certain industries: women dominate health care, social assistance and education; men dominate scientific and technical roles.

Research has shown that this stereotyping starts in childhood. A report from the University of Melbourne found that girls in high school are less inclined to choose science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) subjects than boys, despite their talent.

This results in an underrepresentation of women in STEM careers, such as high-paying roles in IT and engineering.

Gender segregation is a major contributing factor to the gender pay gap. And the gender stereotypes that fuel this segregation are discouraging Australian children from pursuing satisfying careers in areas they may have great ability and interest in. 

Employers, parents and teachers all have an important role to play in inspiring and guiding young Australians to look beyond jobs that are considered ‘traditional’ for their gender. To honour World Youth Skills Day, let’s encourage Australia’s future workforce to define themselves by their passions, talents and dreams, and not by their gender.

The UN designated day aims to create greater awareness of the importance of investing in youth skills development.