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Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Underrepresented and Underpaid

Equal Pay Day

 

 

“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.” - President Obama, State of the Union 2014

 

 

Each year Equal Pay Day symbolically marks how far into the calendar year a woman must work to match the earnings of men from the previous year. Since President John F. Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 the gender wage gap has narrowed slightly, but has not seen a significant decrease in the past few years. In 1963, women earned 59% of the wages men earned. Women, on average, still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes today. Some studies have shown that the gender pay gap may continue to exist until the year 2057.

Women now account for over 60% of the undergraduate degrees received in this country but they are still graduating to a pay gap. While it can be argued that a portion of the pay gap is due to employment and personal choices, there is still a portion that is attributed to discrimination. When a woman is paid less than her male counterpart for equal work it has a profound effect on millions of families that depend on that income.

Recent studies have found some surprising and some upsetting statistics about women’s representation and pay in STEM fields. 

- Women in STEM earn 33% more than their female counterparts in non-STEM fields.
- Women in STEM on average experience a 14% wage gap compared to their male STEM counterparts, which is lower than the national gender wage gap but still a significant gap.
- Women make up nearly half the US workforce, but make up less than 25% of the STEM workforce.
- Women that graduate with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to get a job in their field.

While these statistics prove that women may experience a smaller wage gap if they pursue a career in STEM, they also show just how underrepresented women are in these fields. So why are so few women pursuing majors and careers in STEM fields? This is a complex question with no simple answer, but there are steps we can take to encourage women to explore STEM fields. As a society, we need to provide young girls with female STEM role models. It is hard for kids to imagine becoming something that is not visible to them. Once they see women as leaders in STEM, girls need opportunities to explore different STEM fields in safe and supportive learning environments in order to cultivate an interest.

Women are not only facing discrimination in the form of pay inequality, but are also facing barriers to entry into STEM. These barriers start early on in their education in the form of gender stereotyping and lack of opportunities. As important as it is to end gender discrimination in the workplace, it is equally as important to end the social beliefs and biases that lead to discrimination against girls and women in education and all aspects of life. Making the improvements suggested in this blog will benefit not only women but society as a whole.

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