Fewer women are earning associate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, despite increasing demand for workers with STEM skills, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In 10 years, the percentage of women earning STEM degrees at community colleges has fallen by 25 percent.
Only 28 percent of STEM degrees awarded by community colleges went to women in 2007, according to the report. That means women are missing out on high-demand, high-wage jobs, notes Community Colleges Times.
Although women comprise nearly half of the labor force, only one in four STEM jobs is held by a woman.
. . . Some of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. are in the STEM fields, with employment expected to increase at a faster rate than the labor market as a whole. IWPR noted that while overall employment is predicted to increase by 10 percent between 2008 and 2018, some STEM areas are expected to expand by 20 to 30 percent.
STEM graduates with associate degrees can pursue well-paid careers as environmental engineering technicians, biological technicians and computer support specialists, the report said. Overall, women in STEM jobs earn a third more than comparable women in non-STEM fields, according to a Commerce Department study.
STEM certificates also can be valuable in the job market, but the share of women earning certificates in STEM fields decreased by half between 2000–2001 and 2008–2009.
Community colleges should encourage women, especially low-income women and mothers, to pursue STEM certificates and degrees by stressing they’ll earn much more than in traditionally female jobs, such as child care and home health care, the report recommends.