A recent study published by the American Psychological Association analyzed nine years of data and found that 23 percent of black female freshman between 1990 and 1999 said they planned to major in STEM fields compared to 16 percent of white women. Data from the National Science Foundation demonstrates that in 2010, 8 percent of black women earned degrees in a STEM field, compared to 10 percent of white women. These studies are critical in identifying and defining the issues that lead to the underrepresentation of women in STEM. They also facilitate the creation of interventions and policy changes that can lead to system transformation.
Data is critical to this work. Recently, Congresswomen Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) calling for a study to examine federal agency efforts to address gender discrimination in STEM. They recognize that talented women are dropping out of the STEM fields and are seeking remedies for the loss. Some of the issues under study are:
- -Title IX compliance
- -Pay equity
- -Gender equity in the tenure promotion system
- -Inclusion of women in leadership roles
- -Federal grant funding differences in STEM fields between male and female investigators
- -Gender disparities in federal agency reviews
What data about disparities is collected and how is such data monitored.
Both SWE and AWIS have participated in these discussions with the GAO.
The plight of women in STEM has caught the attention of many different groups who are launching studies to better identify where the issues exist. The No Ceilings Project at the Clinton Foundation seeks to evaluate the progress of women and girls over the past 20 years. The foundation hopes this study will help set a new agenda to advance women globally. It is imperative for women in the STEM fields to include their voices in this study by participating in their survey, which can be found on their website.