A new report from The Education Trust shows that vast disparities in attainment by race, ethnicity, and gender persist in STEM education and employment, thereby limiting access and opportunities for social and economic mobility for some — particularly women and people of color.
Women, and especially women of color, also fare worse in STEM jobs, as many are paid less than their male counterparts. Often, women need more degrees and, consequently, take out more loans to generate an income that is comparable to that of their male colleagues.
Students from marginalized groups still have less access to AP STEM courses in high school and lower STEM degree attainment rates than their White male colleagues. Moreover, a significant number of STEM graduates of color come out of a small number of colleges and universities with diverse faculties; historically Black colleges and universities, for example, produce 25 percent of all Black graduates in STEM fields.
Until 2013, Black women surpassed Black men in STEM doctoral attainment. Between 2013 and 2014, attainment among Black women and men decreased, but after 2014, Black men began outpacing Black women in the attainment of STEM doctoral degrees. STEM doctoral degree attainment among Black women decreased from 1.3 percent to 1.1 percent of all doctoral degrees awarded in these fields between 2010 to 2019.
Without a nurturing, encouraging academic environment, students do not have the same opportunity to thrive as they would with greater support. Many women of color in STEM face a host of barriers, including challenging campus climates; racism and sexism, absence of diverse faculty; a lack of culturally relevant curricula; and individualistic culture. Without pathways to higher-paying jobs, including STEM careers, Black women and Latinas will continue to earn disproportionately low salaries. Advancing STEM equity also includes combating racism and sexism in higher education and the workplace.
The authors conclude by saying that “closing the gap in access to higher education is a crucial step toward creating a more just and equitable society. And investing in the success of students of color is vital for the future economic competitiveness and social cohesion of our country. Empowering more women of color to pursue and thrive in STEM careers would help create a dynamic and innovative workforce that can advance the country’s competitiveness in a technology-driven global economy.”