As I have written here and elsewhere, women are consistently underrepresented in technical degrees and professions and are virtually absent from top positions, both in academia and in industry. So I was wondering, where are the worst gender gaps in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields? Here is data on the worst-fearing occupations in terms of female representation, based on data from the National Science Foundation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
– Life Sciences: women in the life sciences are reaching 50/50 in representation (although studies show that there is still a dearth of women in top executive and faculty positions in the life sciences). Women represent 44% of employed life scientists.
– Mathematics: women now represent 39% of mathematicians.
– Computer Science: women represent 27% of computer scientists and 20% of software engineers (and currently earn 19% of computer science Bachelor’s degrees, the only STEM field in steady decline). Women are only 8% of computer hardware engineers.
– Engineering: Women hold 12% of engineering jobs. Within engineering, the worst representation is among aerospace engineers, (8%), electrical engineers (9%), mechanical engineering (7%). Chemical engineering is the highest engineering proportion with 22%.
– Women represent 14% of astronomers.
– Although not a STEM discipline, looking at the data for health occupations reminded me that overall representation can look good on the surface but mask deep gender segregation within a field. Consider this: women represent 75% of healthcare occupations. However, when you look at jobs within healthcare, you see that women own 32% of physician and surgeon jobs, and 92% of registered nurses and 57% of physician assistant jobs. 30% of women are dentists, but 97% of dental hygienists are women. Similarly, women are 32% of lawyers, and 86% of paralegals and 75% of “miscellaneous support workers”. If progress is only found in support functions, the field is still losing out on the voice of women in many core positions.
As we continue our work to increase gender equality in technology, let’s make sure the progress in the representation of women happens across all jobs functions and is not limited to support functions. The high-tech industry, as it incorporates both computer science and engineering occupations in core functions, has a long way to go.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Current Population Survey, Employed Persons by Detailed Occupations, Sex, Race, and ethnicity. 2009.
National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT).TABLE H-5. Employed scientists and engineers, by occupation, highest degree level, and sex: 2006.