Big gap in women in science technology engineering and math (STEM) professions

Aug 4, 2011 5:34pm

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director

Today, the Department of Commerce released a study about the gender gap of women in STEM careers.  The report indicates some significant issues regarding women in STEM:

  • Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college-educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.
  • Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs – considerably higher than the STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs.
  • Women hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering.
  • Women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare.

So why is this important?

Our economic and national security depends on a large pool of young people seeking careers that involve STEM. One of those career tracks is cybersecurity. Estimates for the need for new security professionals range from 30,000 to 2 million. A solid STEM education starting before high school is critical to teach the fundamentals and to indentify and inspire young to pursue higher education in STEM fields. This report suggests we need to be doing a lot better job focusing on finding ways to get young women to pursue educational pathways that include STEM.

One way is through cyber challenges like the upcoming Maryland Cyber Challenge which is one of many across the country.

We believe we need a comprehensive approach based on consensus of the myriad stakeholders—government, industry, nonprofits, educators and education institutions.  Once an approach is clear we will all need to work together to bring programs to scale and make opportunities available to as many young people as possible.

NCSA is in the early stages of bringing together stakeholders to explore this issue and possible ways forward.