According to Funk and Parker in a 2018 report, half of all employed adults in the STEM field are women, but the vast majority of this comes from the health-related field. In 2016, the percentage of women in the math and life science fields closely resembled the 47% that women make of the entire employed workforce, but especially in the computer and engineering fields, female representation is severely lacking. One thing to also notice is that women are significantly more likely than men to have a job outside their field even if they have a computer or engineering degree.
Many minorities also have it bad where they are underrepresented in STEM jobs compared to their representation in the overall job market as seen below. Blacks are underrepresented by 2% and Hispanics by 9% in STEM jobs, and that gets even worse in fields such as physical and life science.
These STEM fields have grown significantly since 1990 and this area has been shown to have some of the highest-paying jobs, with an average of $71,000 a year in 2016 for a STEM job, and $43,000 a year for a non-STEM job (Funk & Parker, 2018).
What can be done?
These numbers may seem daunting, but they are definitely not insurmountable. Looking at the root of problems can help find solutions. According to aauw.org, some key factors that maintain the gender STEM gap are gender stereotypes, male-dominated cultures, fewer role models, and math anxiety. Many of these problems come from teachers, especially in elementary school but all throughout schooling, that have their preconceived ideas that women “don’t belong” in STEM, so many girls are pushed out.
Exploring that role model idea mentioned earlier, there are limited role models for women and minorities in STEM, so making a point to talk about people like this in the STEM field can help make goals more realistic to reach y giving them a role model like them. One way to do this is through activities similar to our Meet the Scientist, where students have to find a female, minority, or otherwise underrepresented person in science to show the life of and help not only themselves but others see that there is more to STEM than just white men.
Neil Degrasse Tyson talks about being a minority in STEM, particularly about how his drive to be an astrophysicist allowed him to push through people telling to “be an athlete” and any other obstacles he might face. Some students may not have this same drive but they should still be encouraged to pursue a career in a field that they enjoy, not just one that society expects them to have. It’s teachers that have the responsibility to provide the best and most equal opportunity they can to all of their students, not just the white guys.
Funk, C., & Parker, K. (2019, December 31). Diversity in the STEM workforce varies widely across jobs. Retrieved from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/diversity-in-the-stem-workforce-varies-widely-across-jobs/
The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – AAUW : Empowering Women Since 1881. (2020, October 05). Retrieved from https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/