Over the past five decades, women in the United States have made incredible strides in achieving equal representation in education and the workplace. Today, women earn 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and make up 48 percent of the labor force. Certain fields, however, have not seen the same growth as others. In particular, women are less present within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors - known collectively as STEM.
Only 12 percent of women’s bachelor’s degrees are in STEM fields, compared to 19 percent of men’s. Even more worrying, after college, women in STEM leave the workforce in much higher numbers than their male counterparts - only five percent of college-educated women are working in STEM two years after graduation, and only three percent after 10 years. This phenomenon has been called the “leaky pipeline” - a metaphor that suggests women “leak” through various cracks along the professional development path from education to advanced careers.
The B.A. Rudolph Foundation’s white paper “Solving for XX: Challenges and Opportunities for Women in STEM" describes the current state of women in STEM, identifies five critical points in which women tend to diverge from STEM fields, describes factors that push and pull women out of STEM, highlights unique opportunities these fields represent, and provides recommendations for getting women to stay.
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