Gender Equality in STEM Careers A Long Way Off, Statistics Reveal

WINSTON-SALEM -- Universities across the United States have developed programs to attract more women to STEM careers; however, statistics show those efforts are not translating. 

Wake Forest University students, faculty and administrators are working on formal research, departmental evaluations and innovative outreach to change the statistics. WFU is one of three universities part of the National Science Foundation-funded alliance. The goal of the alliance is to help historically underrepresented minorities, like women, work toward careers in STEM. 

According to the National Science Foundation, only 18.2 percent of computer science degrees and only 39.7 percent of degrees in the physical sciences awarded in 2014 went to females. 

Below are some of the key findings about women's roles in STEM from the National Science Foundation's annual Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering Report: 

Sciences: 

  • Women's participation in science and engineering fields is highest in psychology, where women account for 70 percent of the graduates at each degree level. 
  • Women also have high participation levels in biosciences and social sciences, except for economics. 
  • In 2014, the proportion of women in biosciences and social sciences ranged between 51 percent and 58 percent, depending on the field and degree level.

Engineering: 

  • Women's participation remains well below that of men at all degree levels and in all fine fields of engineering. 
  • However, since 1995, the proportion of women earning degrees in engineering has increased at all levels, mostly at the master's and doctoral levels. 
  • In general, women earn larger proportions of degrees in chemical, materials, industrial and civil engineering than in aerospace, electrical, and mechanical engineering.

Computer Sciences: 

  • In the past 20 years, the number of women in computer sciences has risen at all degree levels. 
  • The proportion of women with degrees in computer sciences has increased slightly at the master's and doctoral level but has declined at the bachelor's level. 
  • In the past 10 years, both the number and proportion of computer sciences bachelor's degrees earned by women has declined

Mathematics and Statistics: 

  • In 2014, women's representation in mathematics and statistics reached more than 40 percent at the bachelor's and master's levels but remained below 30 percent at the doctoral level
  • At all degree levels the percentage of women in mathematics and statistics is higher than the corresponding percentage of women in engineering and computer sciences
  • Despite increases in the numbers of women earning degrees in mathematics and statistics since 2004, the proportion of women has declined at the bachelor's and master's levels.

Physics: 

  • The proportion of women in this field, averaging about 20 percent across all degree levels, is the lowest of all the physical sciences.
  • In the past 20 years, the proportion of women earning degrees in physics has increased more at the master's and doctoral levels than at the bachelor's level, but the numbers of women in this field remain very small.

Economics:

  • Women's participation is lowest in economics
  • In the past two decades, the number of women earning degrees in economics has increased at all degree levels
  • Despite the increase in numbers, over the past decade, the proportion of degrees in economics awarded to women has declined at the bachelor's level
  • Women's share of degrees in economics has increased at the master's and doctoral levels.

You can read the full report here. 

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