Today, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, or NCSES — part of the U.S. National Science Foundation — released Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities 2023, the federal government’s latest and most complete analysis of diversity trends in STEM employment and education.
“Diversity is America’s unique advantage in science and technology,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Our global leadership depends upon diversity, leveraging different backgrounds, experiences, and points of view to bring unique insights to problem solving and discovery. The Diversity and STEM report provides objective, reliable data on where our nation has made progress towards access and equity in STEM education and careers, as well as where we must do more.”
The new report shows more women, as well as Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native people collectively, worked in STEM jobs over the past decade, diversifying that workforce, and are earning more degrees in science and engineering fields at all levels compared to previous years.
However, those groups — as well as people with disabilities — broadly remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics when compared to their overall distribution in the U.S. population, reflecting the larger equity challenges our nation faces.
In addition to bringing a wide range of ideas, creativity and skills to bear on innovation and discovery, equal access to the STEM workforce is important because those jobs are associated with higher wages and lower unemployment rates — regardless of sex, race, ethnicity or disability status.
Formerly called Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, the Diversity and STEM report is the first in this series to look beyond careers that require a bachelor’s degree, an educational milestone that reflects only half of the STEM workforce.
“A highlight of this year’s edition of Diversity and STEM is the use of a broader definition of ‘STEM work’, providing a better understanding of STEM representation by different demographic groups,” said NCSES Director Emilda B. Rivers. “For the first time, we count in STEM statistics all groups whose work requires a high level of technical knowledge, regardless of their degree.”
The report suggests women and Hispanics in particular have made significant progress over the past decade, both in terms of increased representation in the STEM workforce and in their participation in higher education. However, those broad patterns are not universal across all STEM occupations and fields of study. For example, women make up much smaller proportions of the college-educated workforce in the computer and mathematical sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences and engineering compared to the social sciences. Separately, underrepresented minorities make up a third of the workforce in STEM jobs that typically do not require a college degree for entry. However, those jobs tend to have the lowest salaries and highest unemployment in STEM.
About 3% of the STEM workforce are people with disabilities. Although the number of STEM workers with at least one disability increased since 2011, their representation in the STEM workforce has remained unchanged from a decade ago.
NSF first started publishing data on underrepresented groups in STEM in 1977. In 1980, Congress mandated this report be produced every two years, and the report began incorporating people with disabilities in 1994. Today, the STEM workforce includes 12.3 million women (35% of the STEM workforce), 8.3 million members of underrepresented minority groups (24%), and 1 million people with disabilities (3%).
NCSES will be holding a webinar to discuss the report’s findings on Jan. 31 from 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. For registration, visit: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_iGPmISgITkiiKzZrJIiMyA