Women and Minorities in STEM Education

Although some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs involve science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) skills, the number of women and minorities in these fields is lagging significantly behind white males.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics—known as STEM—fields are expected to add 2.7 million new jobs by 2018,1 yet women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in those fields.

  • In a survey of female and minority chemists and chemical engineers, 77 percent said significant numbers of women and minorities are missing from the U.S. STEM work force because “they were not identified, encouraged or nurtured to pursue STEM studies early on.” 2
  • More than 60 percent of those surveyed said the lack of women and minorities in STEM threatens the nation’s global competitiveness.2
  • Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said bringing more women and minorities into these fields could address the shortage of workers in STEM fields.2
  • In a 2003 survey, nine in 10 Americans said a strong capability in both science and technology is a necessary component of the nation’s security both domestic and abroad.3

While female and minority chemists and chemical engineers said they developed an interest in science at a young age, poor science and math classes in elementary or high school may discourage many others from entering STEM fields.

  • Seventy-five percent of chemists surveyed said a lack of high quality science and math classes in lower-income school districts are the top reason why minorities and women are underrepresented in STEM fields.2
  • In the same survey, 84 percent of chemists said school science classes were the most important factor in sustaining their interest in science, yet almost half of them gave either a D or F to the quality of science education in elementary schools.2
  • Minority students are less likely to have highly qualified math and science teachers. In 2004:


    • 39 percent of black and 42 percent of Hispanic fifth-graders were taught math by a teacher with a master’s or advanced degree in the subject. That compares to more than half for white students.4
    • Eighth-grade students from low-income families were less likely to have science teachers with regular or advanced teacher certificates, a degree in science and more than three years of experience in teaching science.4

Despite the importance of high-quality science classes at the elementary level, teachers say the subject isn’t being stressed in the lower grades.

  • A survey of new teachers found 95 percent teach English and 93 percent teach math every day. Only 35 percent say they teach science daily.5
  • Just 7 percent of the deans of colleges of education feel very confident that K-5 students are receiving a good science education.5
  • The majority of new teachers said they don’t feel science literate. Seventy-one percent said they are “somewhat, a little or not at all” science literate.5
  • In a survey of parents, 8 in 10 said science classes should be given the same emphasis as reading, writing and math at the elementary school level.6
  • Almost all parents surveyed, 98 percent, said science literacy is important for workers outside the science and engineering fields.5

References:

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Overview of 2008-18 Projections.”
2 Bayer Corporation. “Bayer Facts of Science Education XIV: Female and Minority Chemists and Chemical Engineers Speak about Diversity and Underrepresentation in STEM.” March 2010
3 Bayer Corporation. “In New Gallup Survey, Americans Call Science & Technology Critical To U.S Security.” May 2003.
4 National Science Foundation. “Science and Engineering Indicators: 2010.”
5 Bayer Corporation. “Bayer Facts of Science Education X: Are the Nation’s Colleges and Universities Adequately Preparing Elementary Schoolteachers of Tomorrow to Teach Science?” May 2004.
6 Bayer Corporation. “Parents of Under-Represented Students in Science and Engineering Speak Out on Issue in New National Survey.” May 2005.