The research tells us that there are significant generational differences emerging with regards to changing patterns of employment by sector. The majority of postgraduate students in the fields of biology and chemistry aspire to academic and research roles within the academy and research institutes. However, structural change in higher education and research in Australia, characterised by an extremely competitive research funding environment and a pervasive casualised/fixed-term and insecure employment environment, mean that the majority will ultimately seek work in other sectors.
There is currently a significant disjunction between postgraduate aspirations [Australia's future research workforce: supply, demand and influence factors | Research Skills for an Innovative Future ] and the reality of employment opportunities that differentially impacts on women as Education and Training has historically been the primary industry of employment for women in these fields. If the rate of growth in the postgraduate qualified population continues and employment practices in universities and research institutes do not change, this disjunction will increase. This disjunction is particularly marked for women in the biological sciences.
Whilst opportunities exist in a wide range of occupations in the government and private sectors, and such roles are increasingly seen as realistic alternatives, these roles may require additional specialist (non-scientific) qualifications and experience. Moreover, these roles are not part of the socially constructed concept (Metcalf, 2010) of the ‘scientific workforce’ even though scientific knowledge and skills may be essential and utilised at a high level. There are also systemic barriers to mobility between the academy and industry, including very different, ‘non-transferable’ measures of attainment.