Women’s Progress In Science And Engineering Jobs Has Stalled For Two Decades

Despite making up about half of the workforce overall, only about a quarter of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields — otherwise known as STEM — were women in 2011, according to a new report from the Census Bureau. Worse, women’s progress in breaking into these fields has slowed down in recent decades. After growing since the 1970s, it’s tapered off since 1990, with most of the growth for women under 40 happening between the 70s and 90s. Women’s share of computer jobs, which make up half of all STEM employment, has actually fallen since 1990. In 2011, women were 47 percent of mathematical workers, 41 percent of life and physical scientists, 27 percent of computer professionals, and 13 percent of engineers while making up 61 percent of social scientists.

And while women are underrepresented among those who get STEM degrees — they are 53 percent of all college graduates but just 41 percent of those graduating from science and engineering programs — even those who do get degrees are less likely to end up in these jobs. As the report notes, “Among science and engineering graduates, men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women,” 31 percent versus just 15 percent for women.

Women with these degrees are also more likely to be out of the workforce. Nearly 1 in 5 women with a science or engineering degree are out of the labor force, compared to less than 1 in 10 male graduates. This may have something to do with the strain of caring for a family and getting ahead, given that women are still considered to be the default caretakers. Women who are in STEM are less likely to have children at home than men: 62 percent of women had no children, compared to 57 percent of men. Children may not be getting in men’s way.

The women who stick it out in these jobs can also expect to be paid less. Women with a science or engineering degree working full-time make $58,000 a year compared to $85,000 for men. The gap narrows for those who work in a STEM job, but it doesn’t disappear. Women who work in STEM make $75,100 while men make $91,000.


People of color don’t fare any better in the STEM field. While black workers make up 11 percent of the overall workforce, they are just 6 percent of STEM workers. Hispanics similarly make up 15 percent of the workforce but 7 percent of STEM jobs. White workers, on the other hand, hold 71 percent of STEM jobs even though they make up 67 percent of the workforce. White STEM workers make $88,400, while blacks make $75,000 and Hispanics make $77,300.

Women still struggle to enter many fields that have historically been dominated by men. In economics, or instance, they are just 12 percent of full professors. In finance, they make up just 20 percent of executive officers and less than a quarter of senior officers. Despite big gains, women are still just a third of the country’s lawyers and doctors.

And the pay gap follows them even when they enter these fields, which often pay more. Female doctors make $50,000 less than male ones. The top six jobs with the biggest pay gaps are in finance. Women make less than men straight out of college and no matter what job or industry they enter.