Most of us would agree that a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is an important component of 21st century global competitiveness. But thanks to a new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, we also know that holding a STEM degree and working in a STEM-related field also significantly narrows the income gap between women and men and increases our nation’s potential for innovation. So what’s the problem? Women remain vastly under-represented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders – and this disparity has persisted over time. One solution? Count the STEM majors who work in the field of education!
BoardBuzz has learned from “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation” that women in STEM jobs earn about 86 percent of what men earn (compared to 79 percent in non-STEM jobs). The wage gap is smallest for engineers (7 percent) and largest for those in computer and math jobs (12 percent). Yet in spite of the financial advantages, women hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, even though they are almost half (48 percent) of the workforce. Why is that?
There are several reasons, but BoardBuzz has sussed out that when STEM majors work in education or certain other fields, such as healthcare or social science, they are not counted as “STEM jobs.” BoardBuzz thinks this practice needs to change. For one thing, it is critical to have an adequate number state-of-the art STEM instructors in our nation’s schools to support the next generation of innovators. Further, women STEM educators are important role models for young women and can help shrink the gender gap among STEM majors. Finally, overlooking traditionally female occupations when defining what constitutes a STEM job becomes its own form of stereotyping.
So, the path to innovation is clear – educate all our students to be proficient in 21st century skills, and recognize that educators are crucial to their success. Interested in educator effectiveness? Visit the Center for Public Education “Building a Better Evaluation System” web page.