In the last two weeks, we (the graduate assistants at OED) were working on Quarterly Reports for Workforce Development Areas (WDA) one, two and three. Each season, we try to focus on a certain topic related to workforce development. This time we have decided to investigate gender-based employment issues. So far by looking at national and regional trends, we have found many interesting facts about women in the job market. My Colleague Zack Jackson, in his recent blog post covered the challenging issues of pay gap and income inequality. Similarly, in this post I try to uncover a number of facts regarding women’s under-representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields both in academia and job market.
According to data from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2017, the percentage of Bachelor’s degrees conferred to women by post-secondary institutions was considerably higher (57% vs. 44) compared to their male counter parts. However, this number drops drastically when it comes to STEM fields to the point that 65% of Bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields were received by male students in 2017. The pattern in which females receive higher percentages of bachelor’s degrees overall, but lower percentages of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields is observed across all racial/ethnic groups. Nonetheless, the gender gap in STEM field graduates is the highest between white females and males (33% vs. 67%). In another blog, I have investigated a couple of reasons behind such noticeable difference.
When it comes to STEM jobs, the participation gap widens even more between women and men. While 47% of total jobs are occupied by female workers, only 24% STEM jobs belong to women, meaning that at least 10% of female STEM graduates will/cannot work in a related field. While there are researchers that believe there is nothing wrong with the gender gap in STEM fields as long as students choose their study fields based on their personal interests (see Stoet & Geary, 2018), others argue that evening things out might eventually lead to a situation other than perfect parity, “I can imagine a world where statistically not every field has the same number of men and the same number of women; but until we at least have representation of the number of women who do have strengths in mathematics, I don’t want to hear about it” (Heather Douglas, a professor of philosophy of science at the University of Waterloo).
The good news is, since at least early 1980s, the United States’ federal funds and interventions by other public/private/civic organizations have ameliorated this gap. The number of female undergraduate engineering graduates, for instance, from 2% in the mid-1970s has reached to 17% in the 1990s (Kranov, DeBoer and Abu-Lail, 2014, p. 25) and to 26% in 2015-16 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). Yet, as Kiki Wolfkill, Studio Head at Halo Transmedia and Entertainment at 343 Industries argues the current narrative needs to change to more accurately communicate what STEM is and isn’t to young girls, “there are so many forces at work as girls are learning their way and it’s easy to get discouraged or to lose confidence. STEM is not one thing – it is the ability to create, use, and evolve technology to build a better world and it needs diverse voices and backgrounds – that has to be encouraged and nurtured.”
Berger, R. (2018). STEM Education: New Research Sheds Light On Filling The STEM Gap For Girls. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodberger/2018/03/31/stem-education-new-research-sheds-light-on-filling-the-stem-gap-for-girls/
Kranov, A. A., DeBoer, J., and Abu-Lail, N. (2014). “Factors affecting the educational and occupational trajectories of women in engineering in five comparative national settings”. In 2014 International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL) (pp. 21–28). Dubai, United Arab Emirates: IEEE.
Stoet, G., & Geary, D. C. (2018). The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education. Psychological Science, 29(4), 581–593. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617741719
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018).