The Hands Up for Gender Equality study was designed as a pilot to test many of the ideas floated in the academic and business literature regarding gender, self-confidence and career intentions. While the study has identified the major activities that contribute to self-efficacy formation, as well as identifying factors which potentially contribute to gender segregation of the workforce, the Queensland-centric, privileged, single sex education nature of the sample means that there was no basis for comparison with the co-educational environment, other geographical regions, or low socio-economic areas and whether these environments are contributing to the problem.

Additionally, the study identified that STEM intentions are being formed a lot earlier than high-school, meaning that current STEM interventions in High School will be largely ineffective. The proposed study will also be looking at a younger demographic to determine exactly when these preferences are being formed and what Government, industry and society generally can do to influence these preferences.

We propose to repeat the study on a national level with over 160,000 students from across Australia in single sex schools and a similar number from co-educational schools in both high and low socio-economic areas and across different Australian cities and country areas. This would entail the study being carried out in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

The key research questions being addressed in the proposed study include:

  1. To what degree are children’s and adolescent’s activities gendered and how is this contributing toward decisions not to enter traditionally male dominated fields?
  2. Does self-confidence in children and adolescents differ between single sex and co-educational environments, between high and low socio-economic areas and city and country students?
  3. Do activities undertaken in single sex versus co-educational environments and high versus low socio-economic areas differ by gender and do these predict differences in confidence and career intentions?
  1. What is currently informing Girls’ STEM and male dominated career avoidance and how can this be redressed?

The Australian Gender Equality Council (AGEC) and the Alliance of Girls Schools Australasia (AGSA) have both agreed to support the National Study and to provide in-kind support in facilitating access to State Education Departments, schools and potential industry partners. Likewise, the Office for Women in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are also offering in-kind support to facilitate access to the various State Education Departments. The University of Queensland Business School has already committed $120,000 to launch and house the project.