Email received Misha Schubert, CEO of Science & Technology Australia on 28 May 2020:
"The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone. But now the early evidence of its impact on the STEM sector reveals women in STEM have been disproportionately hard hit.
Australia’s scientific and technical services industry recorded job losses of 5.6% from mid-March to mid-April 2020, with jobs down 6.3% for women compared with 4.8% for men.
Science & Technology Australia and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering partnered to gather evidence for the report for Industry and Science Minister Karen Andrews.
It was prepared by the Rapid Response Information Forum chaired by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. The report’s lead author is Professor Emma Johnston.
It shows us the impact of the pandemic has been particularly acute for women in STEM with children under 12, given their greater share of caring responsibilities and domestic work. The combination of juggling working from home while supervising distance learning for children has made women’s double burden even greater again.
Further, there are early signs that women’s submission rates for publishing research may have declined. With publication records being a factor in career promotion and grant funding, a reduction in research publications is likely to harm women’s job and funding prospects.
STA has worked hard to help advance greater representation of women in STEM. Now we fear the pandemic will reverse some of the hard-won gains of recent years.
The impact of this uneven burden could be felt for years to come – with potential long-term consequences for Australia’s social and economic future.
So our plea to all STEM employers is to keep a very close eye on and mitigate the gender impact of the pandemic on jobs and careers – or the hard work over many years to recruit and retain more women in STEM could be undone.
We cannot afford to go backwards.
Until next time, Misha"