Women in (and out) of the STEM WorkforceApril 27, 2011
Each month this year, AAUW is teaming up with Nature Publishing Group, one of the world’s leading science publishers, to put together an online forum on women in science. The AAUW posts highlight findings from our 2010 research report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, now in its third printing.
Recent studies of scientists, engineers, and technologists in business and high-tech industries have found that women in these fields have higher attrition rates than their male peers and women in other occupations. The Center for Work-Life Policy at Harvard University found that women scientists, engineers, and technologists are fairly well represented at the lower rungs on corporate ladders — they make up 41 percent of workers. More than half (52 percent), however, quit their jobs by midcareer — about 10 years after starting. High-tech companies in particular lost 41 percent of their women employees, compared with only 17 percent of their male employees. Women cited feelings of isolation, unsupportive work environments, extreme work schedules, and unclear rules about advancement and success as major factors in their decisions to leave.
Women in engineering also have higher attrition rates than their male peers despite similar levels of stated satisfaction and education. In 2006, the Society of Women Engineers conducted a retention study of more than 6,000 individuals who earned an engineering degree between 1985 and 2003. One-quarter of women engineers surveyed were either not employed at all or not employed in engineering or a related field, while only one-tenth of men surveyed had left the engineering field. A recent study of women engineers from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, found that nearly half of women who had left engineering said they did so because of working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement, or low salary. One in three women said they left because they did not like the workplace climate, their bosses, or the culture. And one in four said they left to spend time with family.
In your experience, what about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field workplaces discourage women scientists and engineers from staying?