This rapid research information brief synthesises the evidence on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on women in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) workforce.
- Women are a minority in STEM professions. Based on disparities in the distribution of domestic workloads and reduced career opportunities compared to men, this pandemic is expected to disproportionately hinder women’s STEM careers.
- Early evidence on the impact of the epidemic suggests women face disproportionate increases in caring responsibilities and disruptions to working hours, job security and paid work capacity. This is most acute for those with children under 12.
- Job insecurity is emerging as an even more troubling issue for women in STEM than for men. High proportions of women employed in short-term contract and casual jobs are likely to be threatened by cuts to research and teaching jobs.
- Women from diverse backgrounds face additional barriers to entry, retention and progression in the STEM workforce. Anticipated COVID-related funding cuts to equity programs would set back gains in STEM workforce diversity.
- Evidence demonstrates the benefits of diverse research workforces and the risks of homogenous research workforces, highlighting the need to hold gains made by women in STEM in recent years.
- Hard-won gains by women in STEM are especially at risk. This risk will be even greater if STEM employers do not closely monitor and mitigate the gender impact of their decisions.