Gender Disparity in STEM Jobs Remains

Despite a decade of recruitment, women are still underrepresented in science.

Aug 5, 2011
Jessica P. Johnson

WIKIMEDIA COMMON, ELECTRON

A report issued Wednesday (August 3) by the US Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration reveals that women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) remain vastly underrepresented compared to men even though they make up nearly half of the available college-educated workforce.

The key to improving the country’s technologies, job market, and competitiveness with other nations depends on the ability to tap into the pool of STEM degree-holding women, according to the report. However, despite increasing efforts to recruit women into STEM fields, only 25 percent of STEM jobs are held by women—the same percentage as 10 years ago—and only a third of STEM degree-holders are women, suggesting that women are less attracted to these fields than men.

Furthermore, the study reports that women earn 14 percent less than men in STEM jobs. While this may seem like a big difference, the disparity for non-STEM jobs is even greater, with women making 21 percent less than men. “One might think that the smaller [salary] gap might actually draw women into STEM jobs,” Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank told ScienceInsider. “So it adds to the puzzle of what is it that we are doing inside our schools and our families that makes STEM jobs seemingly less attractive to girls."

One possibility is that many more women than men who hold STEM degrees enter the fields of healthcare and education, which were not counted as STEM jobs in this study. Other possible explanations include “a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields,” the authors write.