Media Release by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Industry and Government working together to boost the number of women in science and engineering

Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis says she wants to see a boost in the employment of women in the fields of science, engineering and technology, particularly in senior ranks.

Addressing the Women in Science and Engineering Summit in Canberra today, Ms Ellis said that women were seriously under-represented in these sectors, constituting just 22.3 per cent of professionals in some disciplines.

A report by the Federation of Australian Science and Technology Societies (Women in Science in Australia: Maximising Productivity, Diversity and Innovation (2009)) has shown that women remain underrepresented in science, engineering and technology disciplines.

Ms Ellis said that women’s representation in these fields must be improved.

“This issue is important in terms of broadening opportunities for working women in Australia but it is also critical to our national productivity, innovation and international competitiveness.”

“Australia simply cannot afford not to be making the most of such a significant component of our workforce, intellect and creativity,” Ms Ellis said.

In 2010, the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) produced a report about the experiences of women in the science, engineering, and other technical professions. That survey demonstrated that cultural issues are still a real barrier to progression and pay equity in these sectors.

Nearly 70 per cent of respondents said that taking maternity/parental leave – including unpaid leave – was likely to be detrimental to their career, despite legally having access to these provisions. Almost 40 per cent of respondents stated that they had been bullied and 38 per cent had been discriminated against in the course of their employment.

Ms Ellis said she was pleased to see the participation in today’s summit by some of the nation’s most senior decision makers.

“This shows that industry, governments and the community have heard the call to action when it comes to women in science and engineering. It shows that industry is not going to stand by and accept that the current experiences of many women in these sectors are alright.”

Earlier this year, Minister Ellis gave Australia’s Statement at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York, the theme for which was Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology.

The Commission delivered a number of recommendations, including that countries encourage employers and research funding agencies to do their share in establishing flexible and non-discriminatory work policies and arrangements for both women and men.

The Australian Government is delivering on workplace flexibility for Australian women, through a record investment in child care affordability measures and the historic introduction of the paid parental leave scheme.

The Government has also committed to reforming the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, to ensure that employers are making real commitments to improve the recruitment and retention of women.

For more details on the Government’s reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency visit: