More Women Join STEM Fields, But There’s Still a Problem


A report developed by LinkedIn and released ahead of last week’s International Women’s Day is asserting that more women have entered the STEM field than any other field over the last 40 years.

The analysis looked at the first job role women in the study landed after completing either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree and found that many areas in science, technology, engineering, and math were seeing improvements in representation from women.

But they aren’t exactly flocking in droves to all STEM fields. The report noted that the number of data analysts that were women had dropped by more than 10 percent over the past four decades, and women only make up 20 percent of software developers overall. Despite this, says LinkedIn, there has been a significant rise – 25 percent, in fact – in the number of women in the IT industry overall.

When it comes to manufacturing, there has been a 26 percent increase in the number of “leadership hires” for women during the period studied, making it the segment with the second largest gain, behind IT.

The LinkedIn report was followed by another one, this one developed by a women’s business council that was created by President Trump and Canada’s Justin Trudeau and released last Thursday. Co-authored by councilmember Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, the report identifies ways to recruit more women into STEM roles, and how businesses can reduce barriers to their entry into certain fields. Specifically, it says that many women who graduate with a STEM-specific degree don’t wind up working in a related field. Reasons for the gap could be a lack of access to key creative roles, and the authors call on educational institutions to hire more female STEM course professors, and on the private sector to develop retention programs for women in these career fields. Early intervention is also key, as GM’s Barra says girls' interest in science and tech fields seems to plummet between middle school and high school, and that young females need a clear path, more support, and role models.

The report warns that, as key technologies like 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and self-driving cars dominate the innovation landscape, society – and the economy – will collectively suffer if we don’t tap into the insights and expertise of half the population.

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