The number of STEM degrees women received increased 66.3% since the 2008-2009 academic year, according to the latest data available from the US Department of Education. Still, women accounted for only 32.4% of all STEM degree recipients during the 2017-2018 school year.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, women earned 237,874 science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees at colleges and universities nationwide, up from 143,018 in the 2008-2009 year. Overall, the number of STEM degrees earned during that time increased 55.3%, 472,262 to 733,445.
That gap persists despite the fact that women accounted for the majority of bachelor’s degrees conferred beginning in the 1981-1982 academic year, the majority of master’s degrees in 1986-1987 and the majority of doctorates in 2006-2007.
Standardized math tests for fourth, eighth, and 12th graders show little gap in scores for female and male students. Between 1990 and 2019, data shows at most a three-point gap in average scores (on a 500-point scale) on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between the genders in a given year.
Access to STEM degrees and jobs may have a significant impact on a person’s earnings. STEM occupations made up 6.1% or 10 million of the 162.8 million jobs nationwide in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual wage for STEM jobs was $86,980 while the median annual wage for all other jobs was $38,160. The BLS projects there will be 797,800 new STEM jobs by 2029, an increase of 8%. Employment in other jobs is projected to increase 5.2 million, which sounds much higher, but is an increase of just 3.4%.
As of July, the median weekly earnings for female workers was $913, which was 84% of the male median weekly earnings of $1,087. As the number of women earning STEM degrees increases, it’s worth watching how the expected growth in STEM jobs will affect the pay gap.
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