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Women in STEM

By Mary Grlic

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According to the 2019 US Census, women make up nearly half of the US workforce, but only 27% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers. Though the numbers are higher than they were in the past, it is still clear there is a lack of representation of women in STEM.


Many women are simply discouraged from pursuing a STEM field because of gender stereotypes, a lack of education, and harmful environments. Even when women work in the STEM field, they are often seen as bossy in leadership positions or incapable because they are too emotional for a “man’s job.” A Stanford study illustrates that the lack of representation in STEM can be attributed to a lack of confidence among women. The limited representation can highly impact employee performance, as well as aspects like salaries and promotions for a position. It is important to uplift and encourage women in STEM to create a more equal field.

Statistics within STEM

Women are highly represented in the health field but lack representation in other STEM clusters. According to Pew Research, in 2018, women earned 85% of the bachelor’s degrees in health-related fields, but only 22% in engineering and 19% in computer science. Women also remain underrepresented in the fields of mathematics (47%), life science (48%), and physical science (40%). The amount of women in these fields has increased in previous years, but the numbers still do not accurately represent equality in the STEM field.

The Wage Gap

Within the STEM field, women earn less than their male counterparts. According to Pew Research, the median salary for a STEM occupation is $77,400. The United States Department of Commerce concludes that there is a 14% gender wage gap in STEM. The pay gap is even more significant for Black and Hispanic women who both receive a median salary of $57,000. While some may claim that the wage gap can be attributed to the STEM-related occupations that women undertake, there are still significant differences in salary within the same STEM field. For example, a 2017 survey illustrates that men who earned PhDs in research expected to earn $88,000 while women graduating with PhDs would receive $70,000.

Women in STEM to Know

  • Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorthy Vaughan were all essential in NASA space missions. Each of them were brilliant mathematicians and engineers.

  • Gladys West used mathematics to bring about the first GPS (Global Positioning System).

  • Ada Lovelace was a woman who created the first ever computer program.

  • Rosalind Franklin named the “double helix” structure of DNA.

  • Grace Hopper was a navy rear admiral who created the world’s first compiler.

  • Katherine Burr Blodgett invented non-reflective lenses which improved the quality of eyeglasses and camera lenses.

  • Jane Goodall is an English primatologist and anthropologist.

  • Mae C. Jemison is the first Black woman to travel into space. She is an engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut.

Written by writer Mary Grlic

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