Women are Under-represented in STEM, especially Engineering and CS
Women in STEM in the US are getting only 36% of the degrees as of 2018, and that is driven by an over representation in Biological and Biomedical fields. In Engineering and Computers women are only getting 20% of the undergraduate degrees.
Women of Color Earn the Smallest Share of STEM Degrees
The share of STEM degrees is even smaller for women of color in the United States. In 2017–2018, women of color earned a small percentage (14.1%) of bachelor’s degrees across all STEM fields,41 including:42
- Asian women: 5.3%
- Black women: 2.9%
- Latinas: 4.3%
- American Indian/Alaska Native women: 0.1%
Why so Few Women in STEM?
AAUW conducted research in 2010 to dig into the causes. (Read the full report here)
AAUW makes the following recommendations for cultivating girls’ achievement and interest in science and engineering
Cultivating Girls Interest and Achievement in Science and Engineering
- Spread the word about girls’ and women’s achievements in math and science.
- Teach girls that intellectual skills, including spatial skills, are acquired.
- Teach students about stereotype threat and promote a growth-mindset environment.
- Talented and gifted programs should send the message that they value growth and learning.
- Encourage children to develop their spatial skills.
- Help girls recognize their career-relevant skills.
- Encourage high school girls to take calculus, physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering classes when available.
- Make performance standards and expectations clear.
Creating College Environments that Support Women in Science and Engineering
Although many young women graduate from high school well prepared to pursue a science or engineering major, relatively few women pursue majors in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, and when they do, many capable women leave these majors before graduation. Even fewer women are present on science and engineering faculty. Research finds that small improvements in the culture of a department can have a positive effect on the recruitment and retention of female students. Likewise, departments that work to integrate female faculty and enhance a sense of community are also more likely to recruit and retain female faculty.
AAUW makes the following recommendations for creating college environments that support women in science and engineering:
To attract and retain more female students
- Actively recruit women into STEM majors.
- Send an inclusive message about who makes a good science or engineering student.
- Emphasize real-life applications in early STEM courses.
- Teach professors about stereotype threat and the benefits of a growth mindset.
- Make performance standards and expectations clear in STEM courses.
- Take proactive steps to support women in STEM majors.
- Sponsor seminars, lunches, and social events to help integrate women into the department.
- Ensure that no student clique dominates or becomes the ideal way of “being” in a STEM major.
- Provide a welcoming student lounge open to all students to encourage interaction outside of class.
- Sponsor a “women in (STEM major)” group.
- Enforce Title IX in science, technology, engineering, and math.
To attract and retain female faculty
- Conduct departmental reviews to assess the climate for female faculty.
- Ensure mentoring for all faculty.
- Support faculty work-life balance.
Bias against women—both implicit and explicit—still exists in science and engineering. Even individuals who actively reject gender stereotypes often hold unconscious biases about women in scientific and engineering fields. Women in “male” jobs like engineering can also face overt discrimination.
Learn about your own implicit bias.
Take the implicit association tests at https://implicit.harvard.edu to gain a better understanding of your own biases.
Keep your biases in mind.
Although implicit biases operate at an unconscious level, individuals can resolve to become more aware of how they make decisions and if and when their implicit biases may be at work in that process.
- Take steps to correct for your biases.
- Raise awareness about bias against women in STEM fields.
- Create clear criteria for success and transparency.