According to a National Science Foundation 2016 report, in 2013 women were fifty percent of the college-educated workforce. However, women held only twenty-nine percent of occupations within science and engineering (S&E). In the early 1990s, the number of S&E occupations held by women was twenty-three percent. It is easy to see how little progress we’ve made.
When it comes to other sciences, women don’t have a strong showing either. A report from the L’Oreal Foundation in 2014 analyzed data from fourteen countries and determined that women are three times less likely than men to become scientists; just 32 percent of science degrees are attained by woman, dropping to 30 percent for masters and to 25 percent for doctorates. Yet the private sector benefits from new female college graduates in the lower levels of corporate hierarchy who begin their careers in a scientific field. And the motivation of those young women may be unique. According to Harvard Business Review’s Athena Factor survey, nearly ninety percent of women in science love their work. Two thirds of these women chose their fields because they wanted to contribute to society’s well-being. I recently listened to a panel of thirty- three female college-level students present the reasons why they chose a particular field of study, and more than ninety percent of them used phrases such as give back, take care of, and improve lives. Again, the nurturing trait of females shows up as an influencer in choosing a field.
What is incredibly ironic about not having women in these fields is that technology is on the forefront of EVERYTHING! All that is new in the world is based on our ability to develop new processes and tools to do things humans cannot. Technology is used to research, to learn, to design, to build, to manufacture, to distribute, to cure, and to communicate, and to do it all faster and faster every day. And guess what? We are largely doing all of this through the perspective of one gender.
Talk about missed opportunity! I’ll go back to a few previous points: Women make up fifty percent of the world’s population; eighty percent of all household purchasing decisions are made by women. Men and women think differently and solve problems differently. What must we be missing by not having more women in science, engineering and technology? You can learn more and what to do about it in my new book Money On The Table, available here.