State of Girls and Women in STEM

This NGCP resource presents the most compelling statistics for girls and women in STEM on one page. Statistics include information on K-12 Education, Higher Education, and Workforce and will be updated on a regular basis.

K-12 Education

Girls are taking many high level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, with the exception of physics and engineering, and are performing well overall. However, gaps in mathematics and science achievement persist for minority and low-income students (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2012).

  • The percentage of females taking precalculus/analysis (37%) was higher than that of males (34%), as was the percentage of females taking algebra II (78% compared to 74%). An equal percentage of males and females (17%) took calculus.
  • More females than males took advanced biology (50% versus 39%), while males took physics at higher rates than females (42% versus 36%).
  • Males were 6 times more likely to have taken engineering (6% versus 1%).
  • In general, boys performed slightly better than girls in mathematics, but larger gaps exist between students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds or family income, with white and Asian/Pacific Islander students and those from higher income families posting significantly higher scores than their counterparts who were black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native or who were from lower income families.
  • As in mathematics, science performance varies significantly by racial/ ethnic background and family income, with white and Asian/Pacific Islander students scoring significantly higher than black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students, and students from higher income families scoring higher than students from lower income families.

 Higher Education

The rates of science and engineering course taking for girls/women shift at the undergraduate level and gender disparities begin to emerge, especially for minority women.

  • Women earned 57.3% of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2011 and 50.4% of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. However, women’s participation in science and engineering at the undergraduate level significantly differs by specific field of study. While women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in the computer sciences (18.2%), engineering (19.2%), physics (19.1%), and mathematics and statistics (43.1%) (NSF, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, 2015).
  • In 2012, 11.2% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, 8.2% of master’s degrees in science and engineering, and 4.1% of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to minority women (NSF, 2015).
  • In 2012, 3.1% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering, 6.5% of bachelor’s degrees in physical sciences, 5.4% of bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics, 4.8% of bachelor’s degrees in computer sciences, 9.7% of bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences, and 14.2% of bachelor’s degrees in social sciences were awarded to minority women (NSF, 2015).

 STEM Workforce

Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2014).

  • Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (58%) and biological and medical sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (13%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%) (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2014).
  • Women make up 47% of the total U.S. workforce, but are much less represented in particular science and engineering occupations (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force: A Databook, 2014). For example:
    • 39% of chemists and material scientists are women;
    • 27.9% of environmental scientists and geoscientists are women;
    • 15.6% of chemical engineers are women;
    • 12.1% of civil engineers are women;
    • 8.3% of electrical and electronics engineers are women;
    • 17.2% of industrial engineers are women; and
    • 7.2% of mechanical engineers are women.

Race and ethnicity are salient factors in rates of participation in the science and engineering workforce (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2014; NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2012).

    • Hispanics, blacks, and American Indians/Alaska Natives make up a smaller share of the science and engineering workforce, with 10% of workers in science and engineering occupations and 13% of science and engineering degree holders in 2011, than their proportion in the general population, with 26% of U.S. population age 21 and older.
    • Asians work in science and engineering occupations at higher rates (19%) than their representation in the U.S. working-age population (5%). Asians are particularly highly concentrated in computer and information science occupations (22% Asian).
    • Minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.
    • Within every S&E occupation, more than half of all workers are non-Hispanic whites.