Most of the jobs for 2030 have yet to be invented. Imagine what a decade later could look like. By 2040, professions that bridge technology like AI-enhanced teacherbot engineers, mixed reality experience builders, asteroid mining bot operators, digital house architects and aerial security teams are going to be some of the most common jobs. How did we get here?
The STEM workforce (science, technology, engineering, and math) has grown rapidly in recent decades – STEM jobs account for nearly 7% of all U.S. occupations in 2019. STEM occupations are expected to continue to experience rapid growth in the coming decades – and at a higher rate and with a higher median wage than non-STEM jobs.
Yet, the representation of women varies across the job clusters that make up the STEM workforce. While in health-related jobs, women are overrepresented compared with their nearly half share of the overall workforce, they remain underrepresented in computing and engineering jobs. Women comprise 48% of all workers in the life sciences (such as the biological or agricultural sciences), up from 34% in 1990. The share of women in the physical sciences (such as astronomy, physics, or chemistry) has also risen, from 22% in 1990 to 40% as of 2019. However, in engineering, women’s representation has inched up, from 12% in 1990 to 15% today. It’s not about ability or lack of interest. Rather, lack of encouragement, discouragement, lack of role models, peer pressure, and harassment in the workplace all play a role. Moreover, women who do pursue STEM jobs end up leaving at disproportionately higher rates than men.
STEM workers are society's problem solvers and solutions finders. Yet, with women missing at the table, key insights and innovations may be missed. To be effective and long-lasting – and inclusive – STEM engagement with girls needs to start early.