Only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career.

Less than half of young women who pursue a college major in a STEM field choose to work in a related career. The United States is falling behind internationally among industrialized nations, ranking 25th in mathematics and 17th in science. In today’s competitive global economy, this situation puts our nation’s youth at a severe disadvantage when it comes to future employment and quality of life.

By 2018, there will be 1.2 million US job openings in STEM fields, with a significant shortage of qualified applicants to fill them. Providing quality access to STEM education and careers to all children – especially girls, low-income youth, and students of color – is an economic and social justice imperative for the United States.

America’s STEM Education Problem

Why is there such a shortage of qualified women in the U.S. pursuing STEM careers?

Women and girls continue to be significantly underrepresented in STEM education and careers. However, research shows that it is not a lack of interest, but a lack of knowledge that is to blame and further suggests that mentoring and training would help to increase interest and pursuits in STEM careers.

According to a study done in 2012 by the Girl Scout Research Institute, “Generation STEM:  What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” 74% of teen girls have expressed interest in the STEM field.  The study goes on to say perceived gender barriers have a role in girls’ reluctance to pursue STEM as well.  “Girls interested in STEM like to understand how things work, solve problems, do hands-on activities, and ask questions (GSRI).”

A Few Statistics

The BIG question:  Why do so few teen girls prepare for STEAM careers?

The SHORT answer:  Girls have fewer supports, less STEAM exposure, and little encouragement when it comes to pursuing STEAM careers.

A few statistics by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration:

  • U.S. companies voice concern with filling STEM positions due to lack of skilled workers
  • Women earn significantly more in STEM than non-STEM professions
  • STEM jobs have a smaller wage disparity between men and women
  • Since 2000, the growth in STEM jobs was three times faster than non-STEM jobs

The American Association of University Women: “Why So Few” report:

  • Men exceed women in “nearly every science and engineering field
  • Women earn only 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in physics, engineering and computer science

National Center for Women & Information Technology:

  • Diversity in a group increases the ability to effectively solve complex problems, and groups with women increase the overall collective intelligence and creativity
  • Companies with a high number of women on management teams have a 34% higher return on investment than those with few/no women

U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics:

  • Jobs in STEM fields will grow by 17% by 2020; IT is expected to add 1.4 million U.S. job openings by 2018
  • Women in the STEM workforce is essential to avoiding an employee shortage in the future

Why is STEM Education a National Priority?

“60 percent of U.S. employers are having difficulties finding qualified workers to fill vacancies at their

- Council on Foreign Relations

“In the current overall employment market, the unemployed outnumber job postings 3.6 to one. In the STEM occupations, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by 1.9 to one.”

“At all levels of educational attainment, STEM job holders earn 11 percent higher wages compared with their same-degree counterparts in other jobs.”

“STEM workers drive our nation’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new companies and new industries. However, U.S. businesses frequently voice concerns over the supply and availability of STEM workers. Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs.”

- STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future, U.S. Department of Economics and Statistics

“The top 10 bachelor-degree majors with the highest median earnings are all in STEM fields.”

“The average annual wage for all STEM occupations was $77,880 in May 2009, significantly above the U.S.
average of $43,460 for non-STEM occupations.”

“STEM occupations will grow 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations over the period from 2008 – 2018”

- Office of Science and Technology and Policy

“STEM employment is expected to grow 17% between 2008 and 2018, far faster than the 10% growth
projected for overall employment”

- Change the Equation

“In 2010, the unemployment rate for STEM workers was 5.3 percent; for all other occupations, it was 10

- National Governors Association Center for Best Practices

“47 percent of Bachelor’s degrees in STEM occupations earn more than PhDs in non-STEM occupations.”

- Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce