Not Enough Women in Science and Math Careers

In a study released this week by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, not enough women are pursuing post-secondary educations that can lead to careers in math and science fields. As reported by Jennifer Gonzàlez of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the study revealed that not enough women, particularly low-income students with children, are studying for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

This means that one of the most in-need demographics are missing out on some of the nation’s fastest-growing careers. Coincidentally, they are also missing out on the potential for higher wages, and better job security. According to the report, job growth is expected to increase by anywhere from 10-30% through 2018 in STEM (science and math) fields. To remedy this issue, the study calls on community colleges to play a larger role in educating women for careers in math and science fields.

The report, called the "Increasing Opportunities For Low-Income Women and Student Parents in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at Community Colleges," calls for community colleges to increase their role in educating the demographic for STEM careers by actively recruiting women from lower-income brackets and women with children. The report recommends community colleges do so by emphasizing the economic value of the STEM fields, and including additional financial aid incentives for students. They even recommend expanding child care services on campus to make the programs more accessible for low-income mothers.

The study also found that community colleges tend to enroll a disproportionate number of low-income women with children into programs that lead to careers not associated with high salaries. In addition, only one in four STEM jobs is currently held by a woman, despite the fact that women make up close to half of the labor force. Women in non-STEM careers made earned a median annual income of $35,633 in 2009, as opposed to those in STEM fields, who had significantly higher incomes. Engineering technicians, for example, earned $41,091, while actual electrical engineers earned $71,944.

While most engineering jobs require at least a four-year degree, you can enter many engineering fields with a two-year degree. In fact, careers like environmental engineering technicians and biological technicians are just two examples of what can be obtained with a community college education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates growth rates of 30% and 18% in both fields respectively, making it an even better reason for more women to enter STEM career fields.

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