The good news is that the gender wage gap is much smaller in STEM jobs than non-STEM jobs. The bad news is that there still is a gender wage gap. This is the message that the US Department of Commerce report, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” delivered on August 3. Here’s a quick take-away on the report:
- In 2009, the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce was only 24% women, compared to the 48% of women in the US workforce. This statistic that has remained consistent in the past ten years, despite the increase of college-educated women holding careers.
- According to this report, occupations related to “physics and life sciences” have the smallest gender disparity (40% women) as compared to other STEM occupations, such as computer science, math, and engineering-related occupations.
- While STEM workers earn significantly more than non-STEM workers, a woman with a STEM occupation earns 14% less than her male counterpart. This is considerably smaller than the gender wage gap in non-STEM jobs (21%), but still disheartening.
In the year 2011, more than 100 years after Marie Curie was named the first female recipient of the Nobel Prize, how can the scientific community accept a gender wage gap of any kind? How can we get more women with STEM degrees to remain in scientific fields? What are some ways to get young women interested in pursuing STEM degrees in the first place?
Theories of why these gender inequalities in the workplace vary. Do women view STEM-career paths as incompatible with their ‘communal’-focused goals and priorities? Tenure is often decided during peak child-bearing years, and women traditionally take on a larger role in child-rearing and domestic life than their male counterparts. Is this a road block for women when they are trying to advance in the competitive research world?
The bottom line is that gender inequalities still exist in STEM-related education and careers. What are your thoughts on the issue, and what can the scientific community do about it?