Quick Take: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)Jan 03, 2018
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
STEM Fields Have Fewer Women on Boards than Other Industries10
- 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%|
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 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
Few Women Are Earning Degrees in STEM, Except in the Life Sciences40
|Percentage of Degrees Earned by Women in Postsecondary Institutions (2014–2015)41|
|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
Anita Borg Institute, “Resources for Organizations.”
Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Academia.
Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Science and Medicine.
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).
4. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Cracking the Code: Girls’ and Women’s Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) (2017): p. 22-23.
5. Anna Beninger, High Potentials in Tech-Intensive Industries: The Gender Divide in Business Roles (Catalyst, 2014): p. 3.
6. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carolyn Buck Luce, Lisa J. Servon, Laura Sherbin, Peggy Shiller, Eytan Sosnovich, and Karen Sumber, The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology (Center for Work-Life Policy, 2008): p. ii.
7. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Carolyn Buck Luce, Lisa J. Servon, Laura Sherbin, Peggy Shiller, Eytan Sosnovich, and Karen Sumber, The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology (Center for Work-Life Policy, 2008): p. i-ii.
8. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Laura Sherbin, Fabiola Dieudonne, Christina Fargnoli, and Catherine Fredman, Athena Factor 2.0: Accelerating Female Talent in Science, Engineering & Technology: Executive Summary (Center for Talent Innovation, 2014).
9. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Laura Sherbin, Fabiola Dieudonne, Christina Fargnoli, and Catherine Fredman, Athena Factor 2.0: Accelerating Female Talent in Science, Engineering & Technology: Executive Summary (Center for Talent Innovation, 2014).
13. Accenture, Tech Experience: Women’s Stepping Stone to the Corporate Boardroom? (2016).
14. Australian Government, Office of the Chief Scientist, Australia’s STEM Workforce: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (March 2016): p. 127, 137.
17. Andre Kaspura, The Engineering Profession: A Statistical Overview (Thirteenth Edition) (Engineers Australia, 2017): p. 32.
18. Australia Bureau of Statistics, “Table 6: Employed Persons by Industry Sub-Division of Main Job (ANZSIC) and Sex,” 6291.0.55.003 Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, August 2017, Time Series Spreadsheets (2017).
20. Statistics Canada, “Is Field of Study a Factor in the Earnings of Young Bachelor’s Degree Holders?” Census in Brief (2017).
21. Statistics Canada, “Postsecondary Enrolments by Institution Type, Sex, and Field of Study” (2017).
22. Statistics Canada, “Are Young Bachelor’s Degree Holders Finding Jobs That Match Their Studies?” Census in Brief (2017).
23. Statistics Canada, “Occupation—National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2016 (693A), Highest Certificate, Diploma or Degree (15), Labour Force Status (3), Age (13A) and Sex (3) for the Labour Force Aged 15 Years and Over in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2016 Census—25% Sample Data,” 2016 Census (2017).
24. Statistics Canada, “Is Field of Study a Factor in the Earnings of Young Bachelor’s Degree Holders?” Census in Brief (2017).
26. Tertiary education describes “all post-secondary education, including both public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools.” The World Bank, “Higher Education: Context,” The World Bank Topics A-Z: Tertiary Education (October 5, 2017).
27. Eurostat, “Graduates by Education Level, Programme Orientation, Sex and Field of Education,” Eurostat Database (2017).
29. Eurostat, “Graduates by Education Level, Programme Orientation, Sex and Field of Education,” Eurostat Database (2017).
31. Eurostat, “Human Resources in Science and Technology (HRST) by Category, Sex and Age,” Eurostat Database (2017).
32. Eurostat, “Employment in Technology and Knowledge-Intensive Sectors at the National Level, by Sex (from 2008 Onwards, NACE Rev. 2),” Eurostat Database (2017).
34. Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, “Table 35: Out-Turn/Pass-Out at Under Graduate Level in Major Disciplines/Subjects (Based on Actual Response),” All India Survey on Higher Education (2015-16) (2016): p. T-103.
35. Government of Japan, Science and Technology Basic Plan (Provisional Translation) (2006): p. 25.
36. Government of Japan, Science and Technology Basic Plan (Provisional Translation) (2006): p. 25.
37. Government of Japan, The 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan (Provisional Translation) (2016): p. 35.
39. Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, “Chart 4: Number of Female Researchers (Head Count)” Survey of Research and Development: Summary of Results (2016) (2017).
41. National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 318.30: Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor’s Degrees Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, By Sex of Student and Discipline Division: 2014-15,” Digest of Education Statistics: 2016 Tables and Figures (2017).
42. National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 318.45: Number and Percentage Distribution of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Degrees/Certificates Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity, Level of Degree/Certificate, and Sex of Student: 2008-09 through 2014-15,” Digest of Education Statistics: 2016 Tables and Figures (2016).
43. National Center for Education Statistics, “Table 318.45: Number and Percentage Distribution of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Degrees/Certificates Conferred by Postsecondary Institutions, by Race/Ethnicity, Level of Degree/Certificate, and Sex of Student: 2008-09 through 2014-15,” Digest of Education Statistics: 2016 Tables and Figures (2016).
46. Liana Christin Landivar, Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: American Community Survey Reports (US Census Bureau, September 2013): p. 5.
47. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 11: Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity,” Current Population Survey, Household Data Annual Averages 2016 (2017).
48. National Science Foundation, “Scientists and Engineers Working in Science and Engineering Occupations: 2015,” Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering Digest (2017).
49. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 11: Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity,” Current Population Survey, Household Data Annual Averages 2016 (2017).
50. Christianne Corbett and Catherine Hill, Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing (American Association of University Women, 2015): p. 12.
51. US Census Bureau, “Occupation by Sex and Median Earnings in the Past 12 Months (in 2016 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars) for the Civilian Employed Population 16 Years and Over,” 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, American Fact Finder (2017).
53. David Beede, Tiffany Julian, David Langdon, George McKittrick, Beethika Khan, and Mark Doms, Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation Executive Summary (US Department of Commerce: Economics and Statistics Administration, 2011): p. 2; US Census Bureau, “STEM, STEM-Related, and Non-STEM Occupation Code List 2010,” Industry and Occupation Code Lists & Crosswalks (2010).