A report released Wednesdsay by the U.S. Commerce Department highlights the continuing lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs — despite their equal numbers on college campuses and in the workforce.
Women currently hold fewer than a quarter of all STEM jobs, according to the commerce department. Their low numbers seem to start from college campuses, where women are less likely to study the sciences. In 2009, women graduated with only 27 percent of science, math, and engineering degrees awarded that year.
But getting the degree seems to be only part of the equation for women, who, even with a STEM degree, are nevertheless less likely to pursue an occupation in the sciences than are their male counterparts.
While 40 percent of men with a STEM degree will use it, only 26 percent of women do.
Getting more of the populace, and more women, to go into the field is important to spurring innovation and economic growth, said Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank in a conference call with reporters.
Some opt to enter into other fields, such as education or healthcare. The report speculates that reasons for this could be socio-cultural in nature: “a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields.”
The employment situation hasn’t improved much since 2000. Female representation in engineering, the physical and life sciences, and STEM management has marginally improved, but dropped in the computer sciences. But overall, it remains the same.
The report also notes that the gender wage gap still exists in America, where women earn less than men on average, even after controlling for education and age. But holding a STEM job reduces the gender wage gap, though a gap still exists.
Compared to men holding STEM jobs, women with similar positions earn 14 percent less. In contrast, women generally earn 21 percent less than men in fields outside of science, according to the commerce department.
But where is the greatest disparity? Not between the sexes but within the ranks of women themselves, where women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women who choose other industries.