• Data Science
  • Experfy Editor
  • NOV 03, 2014

Where are the Women in the STEM Workforce?

The business economy in the United States boomed because of the nation’s unchallenged devotion to the growth of its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce. Over the years, other countries have caught up with this winning strategy.  Now it seems that the country that pioneered the top scientific innovations and path-breaking discoveries in every field from space explorations to artificial intelligence may now face challenges from smaller emerging nations. America’s secret to success is now spreading as fast as a global contagion.

However, what is baffling about this fast spreading STEM workforce is that, globally, women are pitifully underrepresented in both the academia and the industry. The current state of affairs opens up a serious relook at the STEM employment opportunities in the United States, which affirms its commitment to close the gender gap in the nation’s technological workforce.

Although the overall women’s representation in STEM occupations has increased since the 1970s, the statistics are painfully low in the engineering and computer occu­pations. Women’s representation in computer occupations has steadily declined since the 1990s.

Let us revisit some of the best known facts about the American STEM community. Most of these facts have been accumulated from a Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau Report titled the Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin

  1. Women may occupy nearly 50 percent of all employable positions in the U.S., but unfortunately, statistics prove that they hold less than 25 percent of all available STEM jobs. This trend has continued over the last decade, although a significantly higher number of college-educated women have entered the overall workforce.
  2. Women in STEM jobs earned a significant 33 percent more than their counterparts in non-STEM jobs, which is considered higher than even the STEM premium for men. In it has been shown that women STEM employees earn about $16,300 more per year compared with trained women working elsewhere.
  1. Women in STEM workforce hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees—particularly in the engineering field.
  2. Women with STEM degrees have shown a predisposition to leave STEM jobs in favor of the education and healthcare fields.
  3. Among many factors attributed to the discrepancy of women versus men workforce in STEM jobs, the most published factors have been gender stereotyping, a lack of female role models, and less family orientation in terms of facilities in the STEM fields.

According to the aforementioned report, historically, women, Blacks, and Hispanics have been underrepresented in STEM employment since the 1990s.

gender-gap

The above graphic illustrates that the men science and engineering graduates are almost twice more likely to remain in a STEM occupation compared to the women counterparts.

women-in-STEM-1970-to-2011

There has been uneven growth in women’s representation in STEM occupations since the 1970s.  As the above graphic illustrates, the women have remained significantly underrepresented in engineering and computer occupa­tions—occupations that make up more than 80 percent of all STEM employment. In general, most of the growth in women workforce in STEM happened between 1970 and 1990.

But, throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, women’s representation in the com­puter occupations steadily declined. While women’s representation continued to grow in math and sci­ence occupations since the 1970s, growth tapered off in the engineer­ing fields since 1990.

It the following graphic, it is interesting to note that most of the growth in women under 40 in the STEM fields occurred between 1970 and 1990. In 2011, 24 percent of STEM workers were women and 76 percent were men:

percentage-change-in-women-STEM-workforce

By 2011, women’s representation had grown in all STEM occupation groups. In 2011, 26 percent of STEM workers were women and 74 percent were men. In 2011, women were 13 percent of engineers, 27 percent of computer professionals, 41 percent of life and physical sci­entists, 47 percent of mathematical workers, and 61 percent of social scientists.

US Census Bureau reports gender-earnings gap: This Report confirms that the full-time, permanent, male scientists and engineers earned $85,000 per year compared with $58,800 among women. However, the gender earnings gap substantially decreases when comparing science and engineer­ing graduates employed in a STEM occupation.

Now let us look at other channels of socio-economic data that collectively echo the wide-spread sentiments expressed above.

Social media as watchdogs: The unfortunately a situation in the global STEM workforce has been carefully observed, aggregated, and mined by social media like LinkedIn and Facebook.  The results point to a sad truth: the STEM community if disproportionately white and male.

Women of color – a minority within the STEM labor force: It is widely believed and statistically sampled that the women of color face prejudices and certain roadblocks in the professional world due to the additional handicap of “race” besides “gender.” Which have been popularly labeled as “double–bind.” This category of STEM employees routinely confront both racial and gender discrimination, limited access to resources and facilities, social isolation, and negative stereotypes. These women are believed to be more disadvantaged than the men of color or the white women—they are exposed to a “combination of two marginalized and negatively stereotyped identities.”

Statistics on PhDs awarded to STEM graduates: In most diversity-data related to education, the disparity between men and women students are accounted for as the gaps are glaring. The graphic provided here presents Year 2010 statistic on Ph.D.s awarded to men versus those awarded to women across national boundaries:

diversity-in-science-where-are-the-data

Dice.com report: This popular and trustworthy industry source  reported that the gender pay gap in technology jobs has substantially decreased or happens to be minimal, more so in cases where the women and men have equal experience and job titles. Dice also observed that there role-dissimilarities do exist between man and women job holders. Women technologists, according to Dice, were more likely to be “project managers or business analysts,” while professions like software engineering seemed more the domain of men.

Women STEM workers opting for consultancy: 31 percent of women in the technologies have opted for a consulting career as opposed to only 26 percent of women in the overall workforce. Also, another recent survey  establishes almost three-quarters of the polled women prefer freelancing opportunities, mainly because of the wide variety of projects and the flexible work-schedules that freelancing offers. Does this particular trend indicate that the gender divide in the traditional workplace in terms of available opportunities and scope for professional growth is more glaring than the American industry cares to acknowledge. It may be worth noting that in the first quarter of 2013, “of the 17,200 new technology consulting positions added to the labor market, nearly 46 percent of these positions were awarded to women.”

In Did You Know? Workforce Data Science, Women & Tech Consulting, VCs Investing in Women, almost 10 years’ worth of research reflect that a high involvement of VC investments (2,500 VC firms), portfolio company activities (19,000), and business deals (90,000), increased in proportion with their investments in women-led companies; and that firms which has already invested in women-led companies were more likely to invest in women-led companies in future.

The racial and gender diversity statistics in the STEM workforce reinforce the need to encourage and increase the presence of women and racially disadvantaged nations across the global technological community. The recent dialogues may have propelled the move for the upliftment of women and all races in the STEM community—as there is certainly a great need for it.  The US is one country that long realized the tangible benefits of engaging and a diverse workforce in high-skilled segments of the American industry to remain competitive in the global market.

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