What kind of person do you picture when you hear the word “scientist?” How about “engineer?” While Asians face the model minority stereotype of excelling in science, technology, and mathematics (STEM), as the following images show, there exists a wide gender gap between men and women, as well as a racial or ethnic gap between white people and minorities in these industries. The following graphs display data from the National Scientific Foundation from 1993 through 2010; however, the lack of diversity in STEM continues today, and as a result, entities including universities, research-based organizations like the Pew Research Center, and news outlets such as The Verge have conducted studies on these disparities.
While women constituted over half of health-care professionals in 2017 and social scientists and psychologists from most of the time between 1993 and 2010 (see “Women as a percentage of all workers in S&E occupations: 1993–2010”), these majorities belong to only a few STEM-related jobs, and as shown by the graph, men generally have more space in the STEM workplace than women. The same is true with respect to minorities, for whom Asians (see “Racial/ethnic distribution of workers in S&E occupations: 1993–2010”) are an outlier, since this group holds significantly more STEM-related jobs than other minorities; however, the disparity between white people and minority groups is still evident.
Two reasons behind these gaps appear to be heightened discrimination and sexual harrassment or assault in the workplace. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 50% of women who worked in STEM reported that they faced gender-based discrimination, compared to 41% of women working in other fields. Furthermore, more women—22% of those surveyed—reported facing sexual harrassment in the workplace than men, of whom only 7% responded affirmatively. The same survey indicated that between 42% and 62% of each group of minorities surveyed reported that they felt discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity, in comparison to only 13% of the surveyed white people.While a variety of experiences exists within each minority group and each gender, and this one factor is not, by any means, the only reason why the lack of diversity in STEM exists, the systemic gender discrimination and racism faced respectively by women and minorities remains a cause that is consistently referenced. We, as a society, must be aware of this obstacle and make every attempt to resolve it—whether through educational training in the workplace or teaching children from early ages to keep their minds open—because diversity only enriches us.
The following app contains the program used to create the above graphs. Click the second button from the left (which is shaped like a triangle pointing to the right) to run the code, and the graphs will appear in the window on the right side. You can also play around with the code in the text box on the left side.