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New Analysis Shows Slow Progress for Women Faculty of Color in STEM

Expert Panel Recommends Institutional and Funding Reforms

As the U.S. continues to prioritize building a stronger STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) workforce, a new Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) report shows that women faculty of color remain significantly underrepresented.
Nov 21, 2013

Washington, DC— As the U.S. continues to prioritize building a stronger STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) workforce, a new Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) report shows that women faculty of color remain significantly underrepresented. In 2010, underrepresented minority (URM) women (blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and those who identify as more than one race) were just 2.1 percent of STEM faculty at U.S. 4-year colleges and universities, while comprising 13 percent of the U.S. working aged population. In contrast, white men held 58 percent of these positions, while making up 35 percent of the working age population. The highest level of representation for URM women faculty is in the life sciences and the lowest is in computer science and mathematics.

The IWPR report shares recommendations from a high-level convening of experts, who explored improvements needed to speed progress. While women’s earnings in most STEM fields are higher than in most female-dominated occupations, women faculty of color face challenges, such as hostile workplace climates, work-life balance issues, and the failure of many academic departments to embrace diversity.

“Ensuring that women faculty of color have the supports to pursue and advance in STEM academic careers is increasingly important, especially given the projected growth of these fields in the coming years,” said Cynthia Hess, IWPR Study Director and report co-author. “To increase the number of highly-skilled STEM workers and strengthen the economic security of U.S. families, we must engage the entire STEM talent pool.”

The report also presents data on the “STEM representation gap”—the increase needed to achieve full STEM representation in relation to representation in the total population. The gap is highest among black women who experience a representation gap at the doctorate level of 71 percent.

The convening of academic administrators, professors, and government representatives recommended developing a scorecard system for monitoring and publicizing individual institutions’ progress on diversity in STEM, making targeted funding available to women faculty of color, and shifting university hiring and promotion practices.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

 

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