The government is splashing almost $25 million to entice more women to study STEM disciplines.

The Women in STEM program will provide financial support and funding for up to 500 women to work while gaining higher education qualifications, and is currently looking for applications from employers and universities.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said she was “a huge advocate” for more women in STEM.

“Studying STEM can open up enormous job opportunities, especially given STEM skills are increasingly important across all industries,” Andrews said in a statement.

From 2021-24, employers will be eligible to receive up to $5,000 in grant money to pay for women employees to study in certain STEM programs.

The government will also pay higher education providers in order to cover the student’s tuition.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the $24.8m program was designed to address inequality in STEM.

“Australia needs more women working in [STEM] to help drive our COVID-19 recovery,” Tehan said.

“Our government has a plan to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM, where currently less than a third of the STEM-qualified workforce are women.”

A government report into STEM education equality released this year noted that women made up less than 25 per cent of STEM course enrolments across the university and vocational education training (VET) sectors in 2018.

That same year, while 35 per cent of men enrolled in higher education courses studied STEM, only 9 per cent of women did the same.

For many women, that underrepresentation in STEM education is followed up with a gender pay gap once they enter the workforce.

To address this imbalance, the government has put together a 10-year plan and created the Office of the Women in STEM Ambassador, currently led by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith.

On Tuesday, the office released a guide to help people evaluate the effectiveness of STEM equity programs.