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We hear an incessant cry from progressives, feminists, leftists and gender activists about a “shortage of women in STEM.” Do a Google search for terms like “shortage of women in STEM” or “female STEM shortage” or “gender STEM gap” and you’ll find about tens of millions of results. In a 2009 NY Times interview, former astronaut Sally Ride referred to the “persistent gender gap in STEM fields” as a “national crisis that will be deeply detrimental to America’s global competitiveness.”
And yet according to some data that I recently discovered from several sources, there might not be such a shortage of women in STEM after all, at least overall. In fact, according to several measures, women are actually slightly over-represented in STEM graduate programs and earn a majority of STEM college degrees. A lot depends on how we define “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)” and that definition is fairly fluid and subject to various interpretations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics “The definition of STEM can vary, depending on the group using it.”
1. The table above displays data on total graduate school enrollment in 2017 from the most recent annual report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) on “Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2007 to 2017” (see Table B.13). If the CGS category “Health and Medical Sciences” is included as a STEM field (e.g., graduate degrees in Nursing, Kinesiology, Occupational Therapy, Health Sciences, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nutrition Sciences, Environmental Health, Audiology, etc., see Appendix D “Taxonomy of Fields of Study”) there are slightly more women currently enrolled in STEM graduate programs (335,346) in the US (master’s and doctoral degrees) than men (326,846).
Related: In a 2014 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics included “Health Occupation” jobs as one of its categories for “STEM Employment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupational groups,” and that group had the largest number of STEM jobs among the four main occupational groups in May 2013:
2. The bar chart above shows data from the National Science Foundation (National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics) on bachelor degrees award by US universities in “Science and Engineering” fields of study from 2004 to 2014. In total during that 11-year period, more women (2,924,660) earned bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering fields than men (2,890,904) in the academic fields the NSF defines as “Science and Engineering”: Agricultural sciences, Biological sciences, Computer science, Earth/atmospheric/ocean sciences, Engineering, Mathematics/statistics, Physical sciences, Psychology, and Social sciences.
Note that the BLS includes “Social science occupations” as a “core” STEM occupation, along with the other core category “Life and physical science, engineering, mathematics, and information technology occupations.”
And it’s also important to note that the NSF reports (not shown above) that during the 2004-2014 period, women earned significantly more “non-Science and Engineering” bachelor’s degrees than men by a wide margin: 7.45 million female degrees vs. 4.8 million male degrees, or 155.2 non S&E bachelor degrees for females for every 100 degrees for men. Overall for both STEM and non-STEM degrees, women earned 57.5% of all US bachelor’s degrees between 2004 and 2014. In terms of the total number of college degrees awarded, men earned 2.7 million fewer bachelor’s degrees than women over that period.
MP: If there is any “national crisis that will be deeply detrimental to America’s global competitiveness,” I think y0u could make a stronger case that it’s a crisis related to the declining share of college degrees earned by men and the persistent and increasing “college degree gap” favoring women than any “crisis” related to a female gender gap in only certain STEM fields like computer science and engineering.
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