Action area: Jobs of the future

The Government is committed to preparing women for work in growth industries and getting women into the jobs of the future.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) knowledge is associated with 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations, innovations and higher paying jobs.[1]

The gender distribution of people with qualifications in STEM is highly skewed against women in Australia, with males making up 84 per cent of all persons with qualifications.[2] Only one in four information technology graduates, and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates in Australia is female.[3]

Innovation is critical to maintaining living standards and creating more and higher paying jobs for Australians.

In April 2016, the Government released Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy to meet the dual challenges of the digital age. The Government is committed to Australians having the cyber security skills and knowledge to thrive in the digital age. To achieve this, we need to understand and address the causes of low participation by women in cyber security careers. This is a focus of the Cyber Security Strategy’s Action Plan as we work towards achieving Australia’s cyber security goals by 2020.

The Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) is an important step towards embracing new ideas in innovation and science, and harnessing new sources of growth to deliver the next age of economic prosperity in Australia. It is also a critical element of the Government’s plan to ensure that women are studying and working in the growth areas of STEM.

The Government is also working to encourage more Australian women to start their own businesses and become entrepreneurs. The integration of STEM skills with other skills like entrepreneurship is key to the success of leading organisations in a large number of fields and industries. Australia will rely on STEM skills and innovation to support future economic growth.

The care economy is increasingly important — for both the national economy and the economic wellbeing of Australians. It will be the largest industry growth sector in the Australian labour market to 2020 and currently has the highest proportion of female employees.[4] This presents an opportunity to reduce gender segregation by increasing men’s participation in these growth industries as the economy transitions.

Source: Workplace Gender Equality Agency (2016) Gender composition of the workforce: by industry

Men and women are concentrated in different industries: Women make up 78% of the health care and social assistance workforce; 71% of the education and training workforce; 12% of the construction industry; 14% of mining; and 22% in the transport, postal and warehousing workforce.

Encouraging men into women-concentrated industries is as important as encouraging women into traditionally male-dominated fields. With the decline of many male-dominated industries, male workers are encouraged to consider growth industries such as health care and social assistance.

Where are we?

It is critical to get more women into STEM industries, which have experienced significant growth over recent years. Under the NISA, the Government has committed $13 million to encourage more women and girls to pursue STEM related careers and to encourage women to become entrepreneurs. This includes a total of $12 million for the expansion of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot, the establishment of a Male Champions of Change in STEM group and grants to organisations that support or engage school and university students, women starting their STEM careers, entrepreneurs and innovators.

The Government has also committed $31.2 million in internships and post-school career advice to increase support for women and girls to study and work in STEM. This includes $28.2 million from 2017 to 2020 for the Supporting more women in STEM careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) National Research Internships Program. The program will support 1400 new industry internships, with a particular focus on women researchers, through a nationally expanded PhD industry internships program run by AMSI. The  funds will also deliver a new and contemporary National Career Education Strategy (NCES). The NCES will focus on developing young people’s 21st century skills to equip young people with the necessary skills to navigate complex careers across a range of industries and professions.

The Government is also providing $15 million to establish a dedicated STEM academy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls. The academy aims to spark interest in STEM careers and ultimately address the under-representation of women, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, in STEM fields.

Women in the Australian startup community had a record year in 2016 — women were 23.5 per cent of startup founders, up from 16.1 per cent in 2014.[5] In the decade from 2005 to 2015, the number of women running businesses has grown by 4.8 per cent, compared to an 8.7 per cent decline in the number of men operating a business.[6] Women now comprise just over one third of all Australian business operators (34 per cent or 668,670 business operators, up from 31 per cent in 1994).[7]

Employment projections to November 2020 show that some industries with large shares of female employment are likely to experience substantial growth.[8] The health care and social assistance industry (78.3 per cent women) is projected to make the largest contribution to employment growth, increasing by 16.4 per cent. The education and training industry (71.4 per cent women) is expected to increase by 13.0 per cent.[9]

The disability sector workforce is estimated to more than double to meet the demand of the full National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) by 2020.[10] A number of these workers will not require formal qualifications, but will need to possess the right skills, aptitudes and attitudes to support people with disability to exercise choice and control over the support they receive. The client‑centred nature of the NDIS is likely to create significant flexible or part-time employment opportunities that may be attractive to people wanting to return to work, particularly those who want to combine parenting and working responsibilities.

The male-dominated automotive manufacturing industry in South Australia and Victoria is set to close by the end of 2017. The successful redeployment of workers is dependent on their ability to develop new skills that are in demand in other industries.

To help facilitate these changes in the local labour market, the Government established the Geelong Employment Facilitator in 2013 to identify job opportunities for workers in the region, including establishing projects to encourage workers from traditionally male industries into non-traditional roles. One such project was the Retrenched Workers Community Services Taster Program, which particularly targeted retrenched workers to provide them access to opportunities in traditionally female focused areas.

24 per cent of startup founders are women, up from 16 per cent in 2014.
Source: Startup Muster 2016 Annual Report.

24 per cent of startup founders are women, up from 16 per cent in 2014.

Key actions 2017-18

  • Invest $10 million for the new Launch into Work program, which is targeted at women. The program will fund pre‑employment partnerships with non-government organisations and businesses that provide training, mentoring and work experience to assist job seekers to become work ready. Employers will use Launch into Work projects to recruit for entry-level positions that have prospects for career growth and will be required to commit to employing suitable project participants who successfully complete the program. Projects will be flexible and co-designed with employers, jobactive providers, registered training organisations and other stakeholders to ensure both employer and job seeker needs are met.
  • Introduce the $33 million Boosting the Local Care Workforce Package, to help service providers in the disability and aged care sectors grow their workforce. The Government will provide timely assistance to meet job shortages in the sector by helping employers increase the supply of care workers in the right geographical areas to meet the needs of NDIS participants and the aged care sector. This package will create more jobs in regions that require strong jobs growth as a result of the NDIS roll out.
  • Implement the National Innovation and Science Agenda, including initiatives designed to encourage women to study and work in STEM.
  • Partner with and promote companies which are leading when it comes to getting women into non-traditional, growth industries.
  • Work with the Male Champions of Change in STEM to ensure women’s participation and leadership in STEM industries and key organisations.
  • Invest in leading private sector and not-for-profit initiatives through the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants.
  • Continue to provide funding through the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy (WLDS) and support to develop women’s participation in growth industries.
  • Identify opportunities for ASIC's MoneySmart First Business app to specifically support women starting a business.
  1. Hajkowicz SA, Reeson A, Rudd L, Bratanova A, Hodgers L, Mason C, Boughen N (2016) Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce: Megatrends and scenarios for jobs and employment in Australia over the coming twenty years. CSIRO, Brisbane. [accessed 16 June 2017]
  2. Australian Government (2016) Australia’s STEM Workforce: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Office of the Chief Scientist. [accessed 16 June 2017]
  3. Australian Government, National Innovation and Science Agenda. [accessed 16 June 2017]
  4. Department of Employment (2017) Labour Market Information Portal [accessed 5 June 2017]
  5. Startup Muster (2016) 2016 Annual Report [accessed 10 April 2017]
  6. Bankwest Business Trends (2015) June 2015 [accessed 18  April 2017]
  7. ABS (2015) A Profile of Australian Women in Business [accessed 18 April 2017]
  8. Department of Employment (2017) Labour Market Information Portal [accessed 5 June 2017]
  9. Department of Employment (2017) Labour Market Information Portal [accessed 5 June 2017]
  10. ANAO (2016) National Disability Insurance Scheme – Management of the Transition of the Disabilities Services Market [accessed 19 April 2017]