Women in STEM - Where We Stand

 Wednesday, March 16, 2016

 

It’s a candidate driven market.

Especially for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals, and even more so for women in these fields.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that the unemployment rate has dropped to 4.9 percent – the lowest it's been since early 2008. Coupled with the 250,000+ jobs added in the last two months – a job add not seen since the .com era – and it’s easy to tell how tight of a candidate market it is.

The Critical Years

The average unemployment rate for men and women is the same, at 4.9 percent, but differs more drastically at different times of life. For example, the unemployment rate of a man between the ages of 35 and 44 is 3.6 percent, compared to 4.4 for a woman in that same age bracket. This difference can most likely be attributed to couples starting their families and women stepping away from work for child rearing.

What’s interesting though is that between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate for men is 9.0 percent, compared to 7.3 percent for women. Is this where men are continuing their education beyond a bachelor’s degree and winning critical accreditation in STEM subjects, making them better candidates than their female counterparts? My guess would be it absolutely could be.

The STEM Crisis vs. The STEM Surplus

There’s an ongoing debate among STEM researchers that while there is a crisis, there is also a surplus in some of these critical areas.

“STEM covers a diverse array of occupations, from mathematicians to biomedical researchers, and at degree levels from bachelor to Ph.D.,” reads ‘STEM crisis or STEM surplus? Yes and yes,’ an article put out by the BLS last year. “Some occupations have a shortage of qualified talent, such as nuclear and electrical engineering Ph.D.’s who are U.S. citizens; in other areas, such as biology Ph.D.’s aiming to become professors, there is a surplus.”

The level of education, but also the specification of the degree, is where some STEM jobs have too many or too few qualified candidates. And if women aren’t going on to obtain the same post-bachelor degree education as men are – and in these critical, candidate deficient fields – that’s where their underrepresentation begins.

The Department of Professional Employees found that in addition to underrepresentation of women in these fields, there also continues to be a pay gap:

  • While women made up 57.1 percent of all professional workers in 2013, they only comprised 46.1 percent of science professionals, 26.1 percent of computer and math professionals, and 14.1 percent of engineering and architecture professionals.
  • In every STEM occupation for which there is available data, the median weekly earnings for women were 11-25 percent lower than they were for men in 2012.

How to Make the Right STEM Hire

In addition to connecting client companies with Pinnacle Group talent, I also spend a fair amount of time educating clients on the market and how to make the best hires.

Here are some of the thoughts I’m sharing with clients who need STEM professionals:

  • It really is a candidate driven market. On average, the candidates we’re representing are receiving 3-4 offers, sometimes within the same day. Talent doesn’t last long, which means it’s more important than ever to pay competitively. Texas holds 3 of the top 20 metros for STEM professionals, which means the candidates here more than perhaps anywhere else are expecting and receiving good, competitive offers. You’ve got to pay to play.
  • Train up. Large enterprises are changing the way they hire. They’re no longer only hiring for skill, they’re also hiring for culture. Wherever possible, train and develop the employees you have into the areas your company has needs. If you’ve already hired a great culture fit, why not continue developing them where you need them most? This investment will also breed retention.
  • Bring in project seniors for project juniors. STEM candidates are at the forefront of innovation. As technology adapts and changes the world of work, these professionals are consistently in demand. In a key technology – take Juniper for instance – it’s a good idea to bring in a senior consultant to train full-time, more junior employees. This can allow internal talent to cross train in other aspects of the business. It also brings outside expertise in-house. Technology is always evolving and it’s great to get fresh perspective.

Concluding Thoughts

I’ve always liked to lead and be led by example. I’m lucky to be part of an organization that boasts a 60 percent diverse workforce and is headed by Nina Vaca, a Hispanic female powerhouse resounded in the staffing and business community.

In STEM-driven workplaces, it’s especially critical to make the right hires today to be successful tomorrow.

With that, I’d like to pose these questions to anyone operating a business today:

  • What are you doing to attract top talent?
  • What are you doing to drive engagement? To drive engagement among your female employees?
  • What are you doing to be more diverse, and to drive more diversity inclusion in your workplace?
  • What are you doing to stay competitive?

If you need help answering one or all of these questions, please connect with me!

 

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