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Science Author: U.S. Census Bureau Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Women’s Employment in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math Jobs Slowing as Their Share of Computer Employment Falls

By U.S. Census Bureau
Sep 9, 2013 - 10:44:50 AM

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( - Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations - commonly referred to as STEM jobs - has slowed since the 1990s, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today. Women's employment in STEM has slowed because their share in computer occupations declined to 27 percent in 2011 after reaching a high of 34 percent in 1990.Blacks and Hispanics also remain underrepresented in STEM jobs.

These statistics come from two reports released today: Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin and The Relationship Between Science and Engineering Education and Employment in STEM Occupations. STEM workers include those who work in computer and mathematical occupations, engineers, engineering technicians, life scientists, physical scientists, social scientists and science technicians. It also includes managers, teachers, practitioners, researchers and technicians. The reports are an example of the important education and occupation statistics that the American Community Survey produces annually, allowing businesses, communities and civic leaders to make informed decisions on workforce development.

In 2011, there were 7.2 million STEM workers accounting for 6 percent of the U.S. workforce compared with 4 percent in 1970. Half of STEM workers were employed in computer occupations, followed by engineers (32 percent), life and physical scientists (12 percent), social scientists (4 percent), and mathematicians and statisticians (3 percent).

While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26 percent of the STEM workforce in 2011.

"We have seen an increase in women employed in STEM occupations, but they are still underrepresented in engineering and computer occupations that make up more than 80 percent of STEM employment," said Liana Christin Landivar, a sociologist in the Census Bureau's Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch and the reports' author.

Since the 1970s, women's representation in the STEM workforce has grown in all occupation groups with the largest increase in social sciences from 17 percent to 61 percent. In 2011, women made up almost half of mathematical workers at 47 percent, an increase from 15 percent in 1970, and 41 percent of life and physical scientists, up from 14 percent in 1970. Women's share of computer employment reached a high in 1990 of 34 percent, up from 15 percent in 1970, but it declined to 27 percent in 2011. Among all STEM occupations, women were most underrepresented in engineering in 1970 and in 2011. About 3 percent of engineers were women in 1970, compared with 13 percent in 2011. The 1970 estimates for social scientists, life and physical scientists and computer workers are not statistically different from one another.

Earnings by Sex

Men with a bachelor's degree in science or engineering and employed full-time, year-round in STEM occupations earned $91,000, compared with women who earned $75,100 on average. Women with a science or engineering bachelor's degree who were employed full-time, year-round in STEM occupations earned $16,300 more per year than women who had a bachelor's degree in science or engineering but were not employed in a STEM occupation.

Blacks and Hispanics make strides but still underrepresented in STEM

Blacks and Hispanics have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6 percent of STEM workers were black, increasing from 2 percent in 1970. Although the Hispanic population's share of the overall workforce has increased significantly, its share of STEM employment has not shown a similar rate of increase. Hispanics made up 3 percent of the overall workforce in 1970; by 2011, their share had climbed to 15 percent. The Hispanic share of the STEM workforce in 1970 was 2 percent and increased to 7 percent in 2011. The estimates for the share of STEM workers who are black and Hispanic are not statistically different.

Asian and non-Hispanic white workers were employed in STEM occupations at higher rates. Non-Hispanic whites held 71 percent of STEM jobs, but made up 67 percent of the total workforce, whereas Asians held 15 percent of STEM jobs compared with 6 percent of total jobs.

The unemployment rates among science and engineering graduates varied by race and Hispanic origin. The unemployment rate among black and American Indian and Alaska Native science and engineering graduates was 6.6 percent. Of all science and engineering graduates, 83.3 percent were employed, 3.9 percent were unemployed, and 12.8 percent were not in the labor force.

Asians and non-Hispanic whites who were science and engineering graduates and were employed full-time, year-round in STEM occupations earned more than any other demographic group ($89,500 and $88,400 respectively). The earnings estimates for Asians and non-Hispanic whites are not statistically different.

Science and engineering graduates employed in STEM earned more than science and engineering graduates who were not employed in STEM. For example, the median earnings for employed blacks with a science or engineering degree was $58,000 but increased by $17,000 to $75,000 when employed in STEM. Similarly, Hispanics with a science and engineering degree earned $18,300 more when employed in STEM, increasing from $59,000 to $77,300. These three estimates for blacks and Hispanics are not statistically different from one another. 

Three in Four Science and Engineering Graduates not Employed in STEM Occupations

Three in four science and engineering graduates were not working in STEM occupations in 2011. Instead, they were working in fields such as non-STEM management, law, education and accounting, and STEM-related occupations, such as health care.

Science graduates were less likely to be employed in STEM because science employment typically requires graduate training, and many graduates may be employed in STEM-related fields, such as health care. On the other hand, engineering, computer, math and statistics majors were most likely to be employed in STEM because graduate training is not required for many engineering and computer jobs.

"The statistics show that women are less likely to major in engineering and computer sciences, which may reduce their STEM employment options unless they go on to graduate school," Landivar said.

Of all STEM workers, 42 percent had a bachelor's degree, 21 percent had a master's degree, 6 percent had a doctorate degree and 1 percent had a professional degree. Women in 2011 were more likely than men to have a bachelor's degree, but less likely to graduate with a science or engineering major. Women were 53 percent of college graduates and 41 percent of science and engineering graduates. Of female science and engineering graduates, only 15 percent were employed in STEM. Male science and engineering graduates were employed in STEM occupations at about twice the rate of women at 31 percent.

Note: The Standard Occupational Classification Policy Committee issued recommendations in April 2012 on how to define STEM occupations. These two Census Bureau reports reflect the new recommendations. Other prior analyses, including a report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration in July 2011, have defined STEM workers in slightly different ways.


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