Monday, December 8, 2014

Why Women Are Opting Out of STEM

More and more qualified, intelligent women are opting out of working in STEM, according to Catalyst’s latest research. These women are taking their talents elsewhere and we need to start asking why.

The global study of MBA graduates found that just 18 percent of women opted for a business role in a technology-intensive industry, compared to 24 percent of men. Additionally, over half of women (53 percent) who started out in a business role in a tech industry left to take a position in another industry, compared to just 31 percent of men.


Even though they have the exact same level of education as their male colleagues, women are more likely to start in entry-level positions and are therefore paid less, according to the study. And, a problem in tech-intensive industries is that women remain in the minority throughout the pipeline, which can lead to feelings of alienation. With fewer female role models than other industries and fewer senior women to serve as sponsors, the feeling of being an outside affects access to development opportunities and ultimately career aspirations.

In addition, from the “brogrammer” culture in high-tech firms to the “Old Boys’ Club” in oil and gas, automotive and manufacturing, women are faced with a culture of exclusivity that can be difficult to break in to. Catalyst asked for advice from women working in the field: One said she tells young women to use a black coffee mug because it doesn’t show lipstick marks, and another,  said she tells young women not to bring notebooks to meetings because people will assume they’re secretaries.

So, these talented women look at these industries, realize they’ll be the only woman in the room and turn elsewhere. To make STEM more attractive to women, organizations need to ensure that companies are sponsoring promising women, making performance criteria transparent and concrete, while promoting flexible work options.

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