There's good news and bad news in a new report released Wednesday by the Commerce Department about women in science, technology, engineering and math - also known as STEM -- fields.
The good news is that the wage gap between what women and men earn is less when it comes to STEM jobs. The bad news is that the number of women choosing STEM jobs has not increased even as the number of women with college degrees has risen in recent years.
The new report, based on statistics from the Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey, notes that even as the number of STEM jobs has grown, the share of women in STEM jobs has remained steady at about 25 percent, compared with 48 percent of all other types of employment. This even though STEM jobs are projected to grow by 17 percent by 2018 -- nearly twice as much as other fields -- and that women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more on average than women in other jobs.
At the same time, the gap that exists among all jobs between what men and women earn, is smaller in STEM fields. Women in STEM jobs earn 14 percent less than men in those jobs, compared with 21 percent less in other fields.
"The evidence is clear. We have an unacceptable STEM gender gap," acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said in a call with reporters. "We're challenged to change the current trajectory by encouraging and supporting women to be more involved and interested in STEM jobs."
There are many possible reasons for why more women are not seeking STEM jobs such as "a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields," the report said.
In examining specific STEM fields, the report found that the proportion of women in computer and math jobs actually fell between 2000 and 2009 from 30 percent to 27 percent. Life and physical science is the one STEM area that has shown the most growth, with the proportion of women increasing from 36 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2009.
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