Women in STEM Fields – Part I: The Stats (B)

By Guest Contributor Aparna Ramen

So we saw (in my previous post) that women were greatly underrepresented in many STEM fields throughout the nation. Fewer women entered and remained in STEM fields. What about here at the U of M? Surely women are better represented here in those fields? After all, we have the nation’s first Women’s Center, and the U is a leader in improving representation of women faculty and students.

As it turns out, while the total number of women students represented at the U is even (at 51% for Spring 2011) and has been for several years, and the percentage of degrees awarded to women remain around 50%, male students are still the large majority in many STEM fields, especially Science and Engineering.1

Women Student Representation by College (non-professional), U of M, TC (Spring, 2011)1

College % Male % Female
Carlson School of Management 59.3 40.4
College of Education/Human Development 31.4 68.4
College of Food, Agr & Nat Res Sci 42.4 57.5
College of Continuing Education 39.5 50.7
College of Biological Sciences 45.9 54.1
College of Design 35.6 64.4
College of Liberal Arts 42.6 57.3
College of Science & Engineering 79.2 20.7
Total 47.9 51.1

The table above shows that the representation of women in the College of Science and Engineering (TC), which comprises most STEM fields, is extremely low at 20.7%, while men make up nearly 80% of the college. This trend is also similar at the other U of M campuses, like in Duluth, where only 32.5% are women and 67% are men at UMD-College of Science and Engineering.1 While the trend has been upwards from year to year, much is still needed to reach equity in representation of women in STEM at the U.

Even women science graduates in women-dominated fields, such as nursing and healthcare, where many College of Biological Sciences students go, acquire lower positions and earn approximately 60% of what their male counterparts do, according to the Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota study (2010).1

The representation of women faculty in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) is even worse, at only 10%. None of the 15 deans of CSE since its beginning in 1935 has been a woman.1

Furthermore, even those few women faculty in STEM fields that exist are much more represented at assistant and associate professor ranks than at full professor rank.1 This is also a major roadblock at attracting and retaining students as well as faculty in these fields.

Women Faculty in STEM Fields

Source: National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, 2009, Characteristics of doctoral scientists and engineers in the United States: 2006

This chart shows the percentage of tenured and non-tenured faculty who are women in selected STEM fields across the US. Women make up a smaller share of faculty in engineering, the physical sciences, and computer and information sciences compared to the biological/life sciences. Women also make up a far smaller share of the tenured faculty in all these fields. This is significant because tenured positions are the more secure, higher-paying and higher-status positions in higher education. Overall, there are fewer women in tenured positions in STEM fields than one would expect given the number of women earning Ph.D.s in these fields.2

While the trend is generally upward over time, women are still vastly underrepresented in most STEM careers as well.

Women in STEM Professions

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009, Women in the labor force: A databook (Report 1018) (Washington, DC), Table 11.

This figure shows the percentage of employed STEM professionals who are women in selected fields. Women are still vastly underrepresented in many STEM fields.

So why so few? Is it because women aren’t as capable at studying and succeeding in those fields, as some suggest? Living and growing up in a family full of highly successful and capable women scientists and engineers, I can give an emphatic “no” to that one.

Or is it more to do with the lack of encouragement and support women receive in their environments when studying or working in STEM fields? I will be addressing this in my next post, Part II.

1. Maeker, Akiko. “Status of Women at the University of Minnesota: Overview and Recommendations” Women’s Center, University of Minnesota. 2011.

2. Hill, C., Corbett, C., & Rose, A. S. (2010). “Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: AAUW.

Aparna Ramen is a volunteer research assistant at the Women’s Center and an undergraduate neuroscience major at the University of Minnesota. Her goals include a career in scientific research and medicine. With a passion for science, philosophy, social justice, and feminism, and experience dealing with and overcoming disability, she also hopes to encourage other young women to overcome their setbacks and pursue their dreams.


One thought on “Women in STEM Fields – Part I: The Stats (B)

  1. Pingback: Women in STEM Fields – Part II: Why So Few? « University of Minnesota Women's Center Blog

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