For 15-year-old Anastasia Chzhan, the world of employment opportunity is opening up at just the right time.
She’s one of a number of young Australian school-girls who’ve recently been involved in programs designed to get them thinking about a technical career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) related field.
It’s timely as the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour force data shows that the number of women employed full-time in traditionally male-dominated areas like Science and Mining increased in the six months to May this year.
By contrast, the number of women employed full-time in traditionally female-heavy sectors like Health and Education Training, decreased over the same period.
The changes in these sectors may have affected the overall female full-time employment figures, which also reflect a compositional shift towards more part-time employment for women in the recent period.
As of June there were 3.25 million women in full-time employment, compared to 3.27 in November, ABS seasonally adjusted data shows.
The number of men in full-time work rose to 5.54 million from 5.52 million over the same period.
The number of women working part-time rose 2.78 million in May from 2.72 million in November. The number of men working part-time rose to 1.3 million from 1.26 million over this period.
If we have an emerging trend that suggests employers are hiring more women in technical fields in response to greater job interest, then by the time Anastasia reaches the workforce, her exposure to STEM, could be an advantageous, and will continue to challenge existing stereotypes.
“I am aware that STEM has been mainly males who enter such fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“I think it may be because naturally, males are more confident with their abilities to pursue their dream jobs or may think that “it is the man’s job” to work in professions like IT or engineering. As these fields mostly involves males, they may also think that this is how it should be.”
Higher salaries in more technical fields compared to services industries is likely to be one of the influential factors driving the employment shift among women.
It is also a key reason for the persistent gender pay gap that penalises women.
Research suggests that confidence and gender stereotypes also play an influential part in the choices women make about their careers.
Employment platform SEEK said the company was constantly working to even the playing field for women when it comes to job opportunities and the way in which job ads appeal to female candidates.
Recently released data insights by SEEK show that women are less likely than men to apply for certain roles if the job advertisement had too many dot points in it.
SEEK spokesperson Antony Ugoni said that the company is also working to remove unconscious gender bias in its computer algorithms that recommend suitable job candidates.
“SEEK invests considerable time in determining where bias can manifest itself in the data collected on our platform and through the behaviours on the recruitment marketplace. Once identified, a library of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques are then applied to the algorithms that have been designed to remove these inequitable trends, and create “balanced” AI products.”
For young girls like Anastasia, the job search phase is still some way off and what’s important now is trying to help school aged children challenge what they know about the career opportunities available to them.
According to the Westpac STEM Careers and Perceptions Report, June 2019, young girls tend to be less confident about a career in STEM (48%) compared to their male peers (54%).
According to the ABS detailed labour force data, the number of females in full-time work in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services rose to 307,500 in May, up from 292,100 in November 2018, while for males it rose to 577,400 from 522,000 over the same period.
Female full-time employment in mining rose to 34,900 in May from 34,500 in November.
The number of females employed full-time in Health fell to 667,800 in May from 674,500 in November last year, while the number of males in full-time roles was 263,500 in May down from 268,800 in November.
Female full-time employment in Education and Training was 417,000 in May, down from 439,000 in November.
For many years now the federal government and business have been providing funding support for programs to challenge the way school girls think about more technical areas in light of the concentration of women employed in services industries like Health and Education.
More women are now enrolling in technical fields at a faster pace than men, however female students still only represent about one-fifth of enrolments in Information Technology (IT) and Engineering fields, according to the Financy Women’s Index March report.
“We know STEM skills are rapidly becoming more important in the future of the workforce, but I see a disconnect with the desire to embrace these skills, especially among young women,” says Anastasia Cammaroto, Chief Information Officer for Westpac Consumer Division.
“Understanding the importance of these industries is the key to encouraging young Australians, especially women, about the amazing opportunities on offer. And it all starts with education and breaking down the confusion or uncertainty around STEM from an early age,” she said.
This article was first provided to WestpacWire and has been republished here with permission. Financy owns copyright of this content and this article, along with all of that published on financy.com.au cannot be republished without written permission.