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Women and underrepresented people of color make small gains in science employment, new diversity report shows

For the first time, the NSF report includes workers without a bachelor’s degree as part of the science workforce

by Andrea Widener
February 2, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 5


Chemists in the science workforce, 2021
A new US National Science Foundation report shows the proportions of chemists of color in the workforce.
A pie chart showing that that underrepresented people of color in the science workforce continue to lag behind their representation in the population.
Source: National Science Foundation, Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities 2023. Note: Data for American Indian or Alaska Native and for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander scientists were not reported because each group had fewer than 500 people. Because of that and rounding, the total is not 100%. Data also do not include biochemists.

From 2011 to 2021, women and Hispanic or Latino scientists achieved the largest increases in employment among underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. Still, their share of the workforce remains low compared with their proportion of the US population, the newest National Science Foundation report on diversity in STEM shows.

“Today’s report serves as a critical benchmark for measuring and evaluating the nation’s progress in this area,” NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan said at a press conference.

The fields of engineering and physical sciences, including chemistry, continue to have especially low percentages of women and underrepresented people of color (see pie chart) compared with social science fields. In 2021, the chemistry workforce, for example, included about 4.4% Black or African American people and 7.0% Hispanic or Latino people, data tables accompanying the report show. Women make up 35.1% of all chemists.

Just 3% of people in the overall STEM workforce have disabilities, according to the report. That percentage hasn’t increased in at least a decade, despite an expanded definition of what qualifies as a disability.

The differences in representation of people in STEM and those in the overall population are important because of the earning potential in the sciences. “STEM workers have higher median earnings and lower unemployment rates than non-STEM workers, regardless of sex, race, and ethnicity or disability status,” Elizabeth Grieco, one of the report’s authors, said at the press conference. Men continue to make more than women in all STEM occupations, she said.

The 2023 report is the first in the series to include people who work in technical fields but do not have a degree. This broader definition of STEM work will provide “a better understanding of STEM representation by different demographic groups,” Emilda B. Rivers, director of the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, says in an NSF press release.

People of color have about one-third of STEM jobs that do not require a college degree, the report shows, but those jobs also tend to have the lowest salaries and highest unemployment rates.



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