The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics recently released the 2017 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report, the federal government's most comprehensive look at the participation of these three demographic groups in science and engineering education and employment.
The report shows the degree to which women, people with disabilities and minorities from three racial and ethnic groups -- black, Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native -- are underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E). Women have reached parity with men in educational attainment but not in S&E employment. Underrepresented minorities account for disproportionately smaller percentages in both S&E education and employment.
Congress mandated the biennial report in the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act as part of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) mission to encourage and strengthen the participation of underrepresented groups in S&E.
"An important part of fulfilling our mission to further the progress of science is producing current, accurate information about the U.S. STEM workforce," said NSF Director France Córdova. "This report is a valuable resource to the science and engineering policy community."
Key findings from the 2017 report include:
- The types of schools where students enroll vary among racial and ethnic groups. Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders are more likely to enroll in community colleges. Blacks and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders are more likely to enroll in private, for profit schools.
- Since the late 1990s, women have earned about half of S&E bachelor's degrees. But their representation varies widely by field, ranging from 70 percent in psychology to 18 percent in computer sciences.
- At every level -- bachelor's, master's and doctorate -- underrepresented minority women earn a higher proportion of degrees than their male counterparts. White women, in contrast earn a smaller proportion of degrees than their male counterparts.
- Despite two decades of progress, a wide gap in educational attainment remains between underrepresented minorities and whites and Asians, two groups that have higher representation in S&E education than they do in the U.S. population.
- White men constitute about one-third of the overall U.S. population; they comprise half of the S&E workforce. Blacks, Hispanics and people with disabilities are underrepresented in the S&E workforce.
- Women's participation in the workforce varies greatly by field of occupation.
- In 2015, scientists and engineers had a lower unemployment rate compared to the general U.S. population (3.3 percent versus 5.8 percent), although the rate varied among groups. For example, it was 2.8 percent among white women in S&E but 6.0 percent for underrepresented minority women.
For more information, including access to the digest and data tables, see the Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities website.