In Mississippi and Montana, no female students took the Advanced Placement (AP) test in computer science last year. In 47 other states where girls did take the test, they made up less than a third of the test takers, and in Utah they were as low as 4 percent of all test takers. (No students took the test at all in Wyoming.) Out of the 30,000 students who took the test last year, less than 20 percent were girls.
People of color had even lower representation among test takers. Not a single African-American student took the test in 11 states, no Hispanic student took it in eight, and they made up 3 percent and 8 percent of all test takers, respectively. The highest proportion both groups reached were 10 percent for black students in Maryland and 18 percent for Hispanic students in Texas.
Girls and students of color also have lower pass rates on the test than white boys, and black students have the lowest rate of all.
These groups still struggle to be represented in science, technology, engineering, and math jobs, or the STEM field, despite a need for more of these workers and the high pay that they can expect. Women hold just a quarter of these jobs and progress in growing that number has petered out since 1990. Worse, their share of computer jobs has fallen since then. Black workers hold just 6 percent of STEM jobs despite making up 11 percent of the overall workforce, while Hispanics hold 7 percent of the jobs yet are 15 percent of the workforce. White workers hold 71 percent of these jobs.
But if these students aren’t being encouraged or guided into these fields at a young age, that may be part of the reason they hold so few of these jobs. The AP prep course for computer science has students design and create computer programs, hands-on experience that could spark an interest in the field. The new president of the College Board, which oversees the AP exams, has said he is focused on expanding access to underserved groups of students and especially on closing the racial test-taking gap.
Even when women and people of color do manage to make it into these fields, however, they can still expect to be paid less than white men. Women who work in STEM jobs make $75,100 on average, while men make $91,000. Blacks make $75,000 and Hispanics make $77,300, compared to $88,400 for white workers.