A Good Dose of Equity in STEM

Like many Americans, I was with family members over the holidays, family with whom I don’t regularly interact. I shared about my recent decision to be self-employed and highlighted a few recent work projects. Among other things, I said I facilitate strategic conversations with a focus on developing interventions and research to increase and advance women in STEM. I mentioned that most of these conversations are funded by National Science Foundation grants.

Twenty-four hours after sharing the above with one family member, they came back to me with their take on the “propaganda” (their word) about inequity for women engineers and other scientists. This family member hires women – what’s the problem? This person is polite and encouraging to females – why do they have to keep hearing about the inequitable treatment of women?

I chose not to directly respond to these remarks. It was the holidays after all and I didn’t want to disturb the equilibrium of a peaceful family time. The conversation has stayed with me and so I am choosing this outlet for sharing a few facts that dispute the equity in STEM “propaganda” statement:

  • Prior to college, girls and boys take math and science in equal numbers, and as many girls as boys leave high school prepared to pursue science and engineering majors. By college graduation however, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field. Women currently make up 24% of STEM students across the country.
  • Women make up only 22% of the workforce in STEM.
  • High-earning STEM occupations such as computer science and engineering have the lowest percentages of women workers.
  • Only 1 in 20 American engineers and scientists are either Black, Latina and other minority women.
  • 56% of women in tech roles end up quitting their jobs before the age of 40.
  • Annual salaries for men in STEM are nearly $15,000 higher per year than women’s salaries.

Attracting, retaining and helping women to thrive as part of the STEM workforce will lead to an increase in innovation, creativity and strategic utilization of our country’s existing talent. There have been numerous gains for women, and there is a long way to go in creating the learning environments and working cultures that will enable women to fully contribute in STEM. While my relative may hire women and is “nice” to women, there are longstanding and broad-reaching systemic issues that remain to be addressed.


The Need for More Women in STEM Roles Goes Beyond Simple Diversity, Forbes, 17 November 2018.

The STEM Gap:  Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, AAUW, 5 April 2020.

Women in STEM:  Jody Robie Presents the Facts, talent works, 19 February 2020.