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 (28.8%) of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the world in 2014.2

  • Central Asia (47.2%), Latin American and the Caribbean (44.7%), Central and Eastern Europe (39.6%), and the Arab States (39.9%) 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 STEM Careers4

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

Leave rates for women in science, engineering, and technology (SET) peak about 10 years into their careers.6

Work experiences impact women’s decisions to leave. Isolation, hostile male-dominated work environments, ineffective executive feedback, and a lack of effective sponsors are factors pushing women to leave SET jobs.7

  • Almost one-third of women in the United States (32%) and China (30%) intend to leave their SET jobs within a year.8
  • The intention to leave within a year is slightly less common for SET women in Brazil (22%) and India (20%).9
STEM Fields Have Fewer Women on Boards Than Other Industries10

Globally, women made up on 12.2% of women on boards in the information technology industry in 2015.11 This is lower than some other industries, such as:12

  • Consumer staples: 17.4%
  • Financials: 16.9%

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.13


Women Are Underrepresented Among Engineering and Technology Degree Earners14

In 2016, over half (52.3%) of students completing degrees in natural and physical sciences were women.15

  • However, women made up less than one in five students earning degrees in information technology (17.0%) and engineering and related technologies (15.6%).16

Women accounted for less than one in eight (12.4%) engineers in Australia’s labor force in 2016.17

  • As of August 2017, women made up less than a quarter (20.7%) of those employed in computer system design and related services.18


A Leaky Pipeline in STEM Education Leads to Few Women in STEM Jobs19

Women are less likely to pursue higher-paying STEM fields like engineering or computer science.20

Percentage of Women Enrolled in Post-Secondary Institutions (2015–2016)21
Physical and life sciences and technologies 54.7%
Mathematics and computer and information sciences 26.5%
Architecture, engineering, and related technologies 20.3%


Among young Canadians (aged 25 to 34) holding bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, men were almost twice as likely to work in science and technology jobs as women in 2016.22

In the same year, women accounted for:23

  • Nearly a quarter (23.1%) of computer and information systems professionals.
  • Almost one in seven (13.7%) of civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers.

In 2015, women who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in STEM earned just 82.1% of the earnings of their male counterparts.24


Men Still Dominate the Number of STEM Graduates in Higher Education25

In the European Union (EU-28), women accounted for less than half (42.2%) of tertiary education26 graduates in the natural sciences, mathematics and statistics, and information and communication technologies combined in 2015.27

The gender gap is especially wide in engineering, manufacturing, and construction.28

Percentage of Women Tertiary Education Graduates in Engineering, Manufacturing, and Construction (2015)29
European Union (EU-28) 27.4%
Finland 22.3%
France 26.2%
Germany 20.0%
Switzerland 15.6%
United Kingdom 23.0%


Women Are Slowly Closing the Gender Gap in Science and Engineering30

In 2016, women made up more than a third (40.1%) of scientists and engineers in the EU-28, an increase of more than 20% since 2007.31

Women are scarce in high-tech sectors. In the EU-28, women were just 32.2% of those employed in high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive high-tech services in 2016.32


Over Half of Women High Performers Study STEM in Higher Education33

Women were at or near parity among undergraduate degree earners in science (50.1%) and IT and computer (47.7%), but remain underrepresented in engineering and technology (31.9%) in 2015–2016.34


Japan Set Targets to Improve Share of Women Researchers in STEM35

In 2006, the Government of Japan established targets for women researchers in science to 20% and in engineering to 15%.36 As of 2016, these targets have not yet been met.37

  • In 2016, undergraduate women in Japan represented just 14.0% of engineering majors.38
  • Only 15.3% of Japan’s researchers in science and technology were women in 2016.39

United States

Few Women Are Earning Degrees in STEM, Except in the Life Sciences40
Percentage of Degrees Earned by Women in Postsecondary Institutions (2014–2015)41
  Bachelor's Master's PhD
Biological and biomedical sciences 59.0% 57.3% 53.3%
Mathematics and statistics 43.0% 40.6% 27.9%
Physical sciences and science technologies 38.5% 37.5% 34.3%
Engineering and engineering technologies 18.7% 25.2% 23.2%
Computer and information sciences and support services 18.0% 30.4% 22.5%
All STEM fields42 35.1% 32.7% 34.4%


  • The share of STEM degrees is even smaller for women of color. In 2014–2015, women of color earned a small percentage of bachelor’s degrees across all STEM fields:43
    • Black women: 2.9%
    • Latinas: 3.6%
    • Asian women: 4.8%
Women Remain a Minority of STEM Workers in the United States44

Women made up less than one-quarter (24%) of those employed in STEM occupations in 2015.45

A substantial gender gap in engineering and computer occupations contributes to women’s overall underrepresentation in STEM.46

  • In 2016, women in the United States represented:47
    • 25.5% of computer and mathematical occupations
    • 14.2% of architecture and engineering occupations
  • For women of color, this gap is even wider. Asian and black women and Latinas made up slightly less than 10% of working scientists and engineers in the United States in 2015.48

Women are significantly underrepresented in high-tech occupations. In 2016, women accounted for one-fifth or less of those employed in some of these jobs, including:49

  • Software developers, applications and systems software: 20.0%
  • Computer network architects: 9.7%
  • Aerospace engineers: 7.8%
Even in High-Paying STEM Jobs, Women Earn Less than Men50

In the United States, women in computer, engineering, and science occupations were paid an estimated 79.2% of men’s annual median earnings in 2016.51

  • While earning less than their male counterparts, women still receive a high premium for working in STEM. Women in STEM jobs earn more than workers in non-STEM jobs—35% more than women, and 40% more than men.52

Additional Resources

Anita Bourg Institute, “Resources for Organizations.”

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Academia.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Energy.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Sciences.

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).

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

DEFINITION: “STEM” refers to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There is no standard definition of a STEM occupation. For the purposes of this Quick Take, STEM incorporates professional and technical support occupations in the areas of life and physical sciences, computer science and mathematics, and engineering. Less agreement has been made on the inclusion of educators, healthcare professionals, and social scientists in STEM; therefore, these occupations are not covered here.53


How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) (January 3, 2018).