Knowledge Center

Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Data and sources for Global, Australia, Canada, Europe, India, Japan, and the United States.


Women Are Scarce in Scientific Research and Development1

Averaged across regions, women accounted for less than a third (28.4%) of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the world in 2013.2

  • Central Asia (47.1%), Latin American and the Caribbean (44.3%), Central and Eastern Europe (39.9%), and the Arab States (36.8%) are regions in which women represent over a third of the R&D workforce.3
Women Are Less Likely to Enter, More Likely to Leave Tech-Intensive Business Roles4

Women who start out in business roles in tech-intensive industries leave for other industries at high rates—53% of women, compared to 31% of men.5

In the United States, only 11% of working engineers are women. Among women who earned engineering degrees, over a third (38%) quit engineering or never even entered the profession.6

Work Experiences Impact Women’s Decisions to Leave Science, Engineering, and Technology7

Leave rates for women in science, engineering, and technology (SET) peak about 10 years into their careers.8

Isolation, hostile male-dominated work environments, ineffective executive feedback, and a lack of effective sponsors are factors pushing women to leave SET jobs.9

  • Almost one-third of women in the United States (32%) and China (30%) intend to leave their SET jobs within a year.10
  • Intention to leave within a year is slightly less for SET women in Brazil (22%) and India (20%).11
STEM12 Fields Have Fewer Women on Boards than Other Industries13

Among the top 20 technology companies, only 11% of Executive Committee members were women in 2014.14 This is lower than some other sectors, such as:

  • Retail (18% in the Top 20)15
  • Consumer goods (17% in the Top 10)16
  • Financial services (13% in the Top 20)17
Women Bring Technological Expertise to Corporate Boards18

Women with technology experience may have an advantage in the boardroom. In 2016, women on corporate boards (16%) were almost twice as likely as their male counterparts (9%) to have professional technology experience among 518 Forbes Global 2000 companies.19


In 2015, More than Half of All STEM Graduates Were Women20

Slightly over half (50.1%) of students enrolled in natural and physical sciences were women in 2015.21

  • However, women are significantly underrepresented in higher education technology and engineering fields. Less than one in six students enrolled in information technology (15.5%) and engineering and related technologies (15.2%) were women in 2015.22

Women accounted for less than one in eight (11.8%) engineers in Australia’s labor force in 2011.23

  • In May 2016, women made up less than a quarter (23.9%) of those employed in computer system design and related services.24


Men Still Outnumber Women Among STEM Degree Holders25

In 2013–2014, women enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions represented over half (53.5%) of students in physical and life sciences and technologies. However, in other fields, they only accounted for:26

  • Slightly over a quarter (25.4%) in mathematics, computer, and information sciences.
  • Less than a fifth (19%) in architecture, engineering, and related technologies.
Few Women Graduates of STEM Programs Are Working in STEM Jobs27

Younger women hold a higher share of STEM degrees than older women. In 2011, women aged 25 to 34 held almost two-fifths (39.1%) of STEM degrees, compared to less than a quarter (22.6%) of their counterparts aged 55 to 64 (22.6%).28

Only 27% of women graduates with a STEM degree were working in a STEM-intensive occupation in Canada in 2011.29

Also in 2011, women accounted for:30

  • Nearly a quarter (24.2%) of computer and information systems professionals.
  • About one in eight (12.8%) of civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers.

In 2015, women earned 85.7% of men’s salaries in natural and applied sciences and related occupations, based on median weekly earnings for full-time work.31


Men Still Dominate the Number of STEM Graduates in Higher Education32

In the European Union (EU-28), less than half (42.4%) of tertiary education33 graduates in science, mathematics, and computing were women in 2014.34

The gender gap is especially wide in engineering, manufacturing, and construction. Women represented only slightly over a quarter (27.2%) of the EU-28’s tertiary education graduates in 2014. This gap is even wider in individual countries:35

  • France (25.6%)
  • United Kingdom (22.4%)
  • Finland (21.5%)
  • Germany (19.3%)
  • Switzerland (14.7%)
Women Are Slowly Closing the Gender Gap in Science and Engineering36

In 2015, women made up less than half (40.3%) of scientists and engineers in the EU-28, an increase from 32.2% in 2008.37

Women are scarce in high-tech sectors. In the EU-28, women accounted for only 32.5% among those employed in high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive high-tech services in 2015.38


Over Half of Women High Performers Study STEM in Higher Education39

More women pursue science disciplines in India’s higher education institutions than engineering or technology subjects. Nearly half (46.7%) of undergraduate science majors were women, compared to IT and computer majors (44%) and engineering and technology majors (28.1%) in 2014–2015.40


Japan Set Targets to Improve Share of Women Researchers in STEM41

In 2006, the Government of Japan established a target to increase the share of women researchers in science to 20% and in engineering to 15%.42 As of 2016, these targets have not yet been met.43

  • In 2015, undergraduate women in Japan represented less than one-sixth (13.6%) of engineering majors.44
  • Only 14.4% of Japan’s researchers in science and technology were women in 2013.45

United States

Few Women Are Earning Degrees in STEM, Except in the Life Sciences46

In 2013–2014, women in the United States earned more than half of degrees in the biological and biomedical sciences, but a smaller share of other STEM fields:47

  Bachelor's Master's PhD
Percentage (%) of Degrees Earned by Women in Postsecondary Institutions
Biological and biomedical sciences 58.5 56.5 53.2
Math and Statistics 43.0 41.5 28.9
Engineering 18.4 24.4 22.7
Computer and information sciences 18.0 28.7 21.0








Women Remain a Minority of STEM Workers in the United States48

Women make up only about one-quarter (25.8%) of those in STEM occupations.49

A substantial gender gap in engineering and computer occupations contributes to women’s overall underrepresentation in STEM.50

  • In 2015, women in the United States represented:51
    • 24.7% of computer and mathematical occupations
    • 15.1% of architecture and engineering occupations
  • For women of color, this gap is even wider. Asian and black women and Latinas made up less than 10% of working scientists and engineers in the United States in 2013.52

Women are a rarity in high-tech occupations. In 2015, women represented around one-third or less of those employed in these jobs, including:53

  • Computer systems analysts (34.2%)
  • Computer programmers (21.0%)
  • Software developers (17.9%)
  • Aerospace engineers (11.3%)
  • Computer hardware engineers (12.8%)
Even in High-Paying STEM Jobs, Women Earn Less than Men54

In the United States, women in computer, engineering, and science occupations were paid an estimated 83% of men’s annual median earnings in 2013.55

  • Among the highest degree-holders working full-time in science and engineering in the United States in 2013, women made 31.3% less than men in median annual salary: $55,000 for women compared to $80,000 for men.56

Additional Resources

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Academia.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Energy.

Marilyn Drury, “Still Alone at the Table? Women Working in Technology Organizations,” in Handbook on Well-Being of Working Women, ed. Mary L. Connerley and Jiyun Wu (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Science+Business Media, 2016).

Nadya A. Fouad and Romila Singh, Stemming the Tide: Why Women Leave Engineering (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/NSF, 2011).

Catherine Hill, Christianne Corbett, and Andresse St. Rose, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (American Association of University Women, 2010).

OECD, The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behavior, Confidence (PISA, 2015).

Aarti Shyamsunder and Nancy M. Carter, High Potentials Under Pressure in India’s Technology Sector (Catalyst, 2014).


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). New York: Catalyst, December 9, 2016.