Professionals Australia said in a statement that urgent steps were needed post-pandemic to better the rate of participation, retention and career advancement for women in STEM jobs, finding that they were under-paid, under-represented and unsupported.
A report, Women Staying in The STEM Workforce, also found that the pandemic had witnessed higher job losses among women. Women made up only 29% of the university-qualified workforce and more than a third of the female STEM workforce surveyed, aged between 25 and 35, were aiming to quit their jobs in the next five years.
Professionals Australia chief executive Jill McCabe said: "The survey found that many women in STEM planned to leave the industry, with pay, conditions and a lack of career advancement among the top reasons for doing so. The pandemic has also created a further 'push' factor.
McCabe said the survey findings reflected her personal experience. "Those who work part-time or flexibly are often seen as less committed to their careers. Being part-time also cuts you off from a lot of progression opportunities," she said.
"This creates a vicious cycle where fewer women make it into senior, hiring positions and, as a result, fewer women in the workforce have access to professional development or are promoted to more senior roles."
On the positive side, McCabe said the pandemic had also provided some opportunities for improving the experiences of women in STEM fields.
"Despite the many negative impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has also provided an opportunity to address some of the barriers women have historically faced in STEM. There is now an increased acceptance of more flexible and remote working arrangements, as well as more online training and professional development opportunities," she said.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the crucial role our STEM professionals play in shaping public life and outcomes. It's only fair this value is reflected in their pay and workplace conditions."
"Urgently addressing the gender pay gap and the organisational factors behind the attrition of women from STEM fields must be part of any plan to re-build the STEM workforce for an equitable post-COVID future."