ACCESS AND ENROLLMENT; THE GATEWAY TO STEM COURSES AND CAREERS
According to the Department of Education’s newly released data story on STEM, 80 percent of all eighth-graders attend a school that offers Algebra 1, but only 24 percent of these students are actually enrolled in the course. As many have acknowledged, this “leak” in the STEM pipeline can have long-term effects on students’ education, since Algebra 1 is considered the gatekeeper course to advanced math and science courses.
According to the primary data source, the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection students’ access to algebra in eighth grade is inconsistent across the country and access to STEM education can be impacted by a number of factors, such as the location of the school or the type of school a student attends. Students enrolled in magnet or traditional public schools were more likely to have access to Algebra 1 than at other types of schools. Similarly students attending suburban schools were more likely to have access than students in other areas.
Enrollment is just as important as access, but data show not all students with access were enrolled at the same rate. Asian students were more likely to be enrolled in Algebra 1 in eighth grade—34 percent—compared with only 12 percent of eighth grade black students. In addition, a slightly higher percentage of female students (25 percent) compared with male students (22 percent) were enrolled in Algebra 1 in eighth grade.
The Organic Onions Discovery Center is working to provide readiness programs to get children interested and motivated to pursue STEM related fields. Help Organic Onions continue this work and to ensure equal access to a strong STEM education for all students.
WOMEN REMAIN A MINORITY IN STEM CAREERS
Few women are earning degrees in STEM, except in the Life Science field. The percentage of degrees earned by women in post-secondary institutions (2014–2015) in all STEM Fields was 35%. So for all STEM degrees earned only one-third were earned by women. Specifically in the fields of Engineering, Engineering Technologies, Computer and Information Sciences the degrees earned by women dropped to only 18%.
The share of STEM degrees is even smaller for women of color. In 2014–2015, women of color earned a very small percentage of bachelor’s degrees across all STEM fields:
- Black women: 2.9%
- Latinas: 3.6%
- Asian women: 4.8%
In the workforce women made up less than one-quarter (24%) of those employed in STEM occupations in 2015.
A substantial gender gap in engineering and computer occupations contributes to women’s overall under-representation in STEM. In 2016, women in the United States represented:
- 25.5% of computer and mathematical occupations
- 14.2% of architecture and engineering occupations
For women of color, this gap is even wider. Asian and black women and Latinas made up slightly less than 10% of working scientists and engineers in the United States in 2015. Women are significantly under-represented in high-tech occupations. In 2016, women accounted for one-fifth or less of those employed in some of these jobs, including:
- Software developers, applications and systems software: 20.0%
- Computer network architects: 9.7%
- Aerospace engineers: 7.8%