By Roberta Rincon, Ph.D., SWE Senior Manager of Research

The National Center for Education Statistics calculates the percentage of men and women with earned bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields who are still working in STEM occupations at 25 to 34 years of age.¹ These data give us insight into attrition from the STEM workforce and how it differs by gender and race.

The following graphs highlight the striking differences in men’s and women’s retention in STEM careers. Regardless of race, women with STEM degrees are more likely than men to be working in non-STEM occupations. For example, 75.1% of Hispanic women between the ages of 25 and 34 who obtained degrees in STEM are working in non-STEM occupations compared with 56.6% of Hispanic men. Another interesting observation becomes apparent when comparing these figures against the percentage of White and Asian men who have left STEM. Retention in STEM occupations for women and people of color is much lower than for White and Asian men, who seem concentrated in engineering and computer science occupations versus the life and physical sciences.

While it is important to continue working to encourage more women to pursue degrees in STEM, it is also vital that we consider more effective ways to retain women in STEM careers. Efforts such as the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative,² which focuses on strategies to retain women of color in the engineering workforce, and the STEM Reentry Task Force,³ which helps women who have taken a break from the engineering and technical workforce resume their careers, are critical to developing and sustaining a diverse STEM workforce.

1. Source: Digest of Education Statistics, 2019, Table 505.30. Note that the data reported in Table 505.30 are based on sample surveys of the entire U.S. population. The data include only employed persons who have a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field of study. The first bachelor’s degree major reported by respondents was used to classify their field of study, even though they were able to report a second bachelor’s degree major and may possess advanced degrees in other fields.

2. Find out more about the Women of Color in Engineering Collaborative at https://www.womenofcolorengineers.org/.

3. Find out more about the STEM Reentry Task Force at https://reentry.swe.org/.