Why aren’t more women going into STEM careers?

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers are some of the fastest-growing occupations in the world. In fact, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in computer occupations will grow by 12.5% from 2014 to 2024.

STEM careers are helping to create the world’s future, especially in a time like now, where science and technology are more important than ever. Yet, the gender majority of the United States makes up a very small amount of the STEM workforce. In fact, only 19 of the 616 Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2019 in STEM were given to women. So this leads to the big question: why aren’t more women involved in STEM?

Women only make up 29% of the STEM workforce. Only 19% of STEM company board members are women and an astounding 3% of STEM industry CEOs are women. Why are so many women not going into the STEM workforce? There are a few reasons for the answer.

One reason is that STEM careers are viewed as more “masculine” compared to humanities which are seen as “feminine.” A test called the Draw-A-Scientist Test asks young students to do just that: draw a scientist. Most kids draw a Caucasian male wearing a lab coat. It is also a fact of comfort: men dominate the workplace and college lectures, which makes those environments lack support and become less appealing places for women. There are also several studies proving that math teachers give lower grades to girls for doing the same work as boys.

The problem is not low salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 93% of STEM jobs are paid higher than the average salaries of non-STEM jobs. However, there is a large disparity between women’s and men’s salaries in STEM careers. According to a study done in 2013 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, women with a degree in STEM earned between 82% and 87% of what men earned. That is an average of $65,000 compared to men’s $79,000. Even when women make it into the STEM workforce, they are still at a disadvantage with salaries.

It is not just a difference between women and men; minority women are at even more of a disadvantage. Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and Latinx women make up only 4.87% of the STEM workforce. Women of color have been underrepresented for generations in STEM majors at universities and STEM careers. This leads to the struggle of feeling like they are working in a biased environment. At this time, diversity is a huge issue that needs to be solved; having more minority women in STEM would be a start to the solution.

So how can high school girls be encouraged to major in STEM-related fields in college? Studies have shown that girls have the same ability to pass STEM classes as much as boys do. In fact, girls are proven to have a better passing rate on all tests for a long period of time: they can sustain their performance better. If girls have the same chance as boys to succeed in STEM fields in college, then why do only 13% of female seniors say they’re choosing STEM majors compared to 26% of male seniors? High school girls need to see that they have the ability to make a difference in the world through STEM fields. 



United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

American Association of University Women

Maryville University

United States Census Bureau