One year into a profession in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), women are far more likely to leave their jobs than their male coworkers. A new study released Wednesday by the Center for Talent Innovation finds that women call it quits 45 percent more often in their rookie years at such STEM jobs than men.
Women are consistently underrepresented in high-tech fields. Despite making up about half the U.S. workforce, they’re a mere quarter of American STEM workers. And their numbers have been stalling. It’s not that women aren’t getting STEM degrees; they make up 41 percent of those graduating from engineering or science programs. But when they leave school, they’re not always going into the workforce for which they’ve been trained. Previous research has found that “men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women.”
The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) study reveals why: Women are abandoning their STEM careers within months of starting them. Nearly one in every five women with a STEM degree is out of the labor force entirely.
The question that remains: What causes them to leave?
One reason is that women are more often required to be the primary caretakers of children, a time-consuming activity that doesn’t always gel with the rigid disciplines of STEM. Sixty-two percent of female STEM workers report having no kids at home, compared to 57 percent of men — a sign that kids can get in the way of a woman’s career in that field, even when the child doesn’t do the same for a man’s.
There is also persistent discrimination against women who enter the science and math fields. CTI’s study found that almost a third of “senior leaders” in STEM fields think a woman would never be able to reach top jobs at their organizations. A part of this surely comes from a general societal bias against women in those fields. Previous research has shown that even STEM professors doubt the ability of their female students. Biases against women in STEM start when they’re young girls and can become so ingrained as to actually make the girls worse at the subject.
But even when women overcome all of the odds and tough it out in STEM fields, they’re still not reaping all the benefits that the men they work with enjoy. Full-time female workers with STEM degrees earn $58,000 a year compared, while men with the same degrees are making $85,000.