What is STEM?

STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is characterized by a workforce that has “high-quality, knowledge-intensive jobs…that lead to discovery and new technology”.  New ideas, new companies and new industries are birthed out of the innovation and competitiveness of STEM careers.  Over the last decade, employment opportunities in STEM have experienced a phenomenal growth, yet the disparities that exist in STEM are staggering.  Historically, because women, African- Americans and Hispanics have been less likely to enroll in a math, science or engineering major in college or they have been less likely to remain in those majors, thus contributing to the underrepresentation of women, African-Americans and Hispanics in STEM employment.  It is time to reduce the disparities in STEM employment by sex, race and Hispanic origin.

What are some STEM careers?

STEM careers include computer science, mathematics, engineering, life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences and science technicians. I would also like to include managers, teachers, practitioners, and researchers, (some of the less technical professions are typically excluded).  Most of these careers do require at least a college degree.  The table below gives a list of some STEM occupations:


Computer Occupations Mathematical Occupations
Information systems managers/scientists

Computer systems analyst

Information security

Software developers

Web developers

Network administrators




Math teachers

Software engineer

Computer programmer

Engineering Occupations Life and Physical Science Occupations
Architectural and engineering managers

Chemical engineers

Biomedical engineers

Civil engineers

Computer hardware engineers

Industrial engineers

Biological scientists

Medical and life scientists





Social Science Occupations

Survey researchers


Urban and regional planners


For a complete list go to https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-24.pdf

Why you should consider a career in STEM?

  1. Wages – STEM workers earn 26% more than their non-STEM counterparts.  Additionally, STEM degree holders enjoy higher earnings whether they work in a STEM or a non-STEM occupation. The May 2013 annual average salary for all STEM occupations is $79,640.
  2. Joblessness – Workers in STEM occupations experience lower unemployment rates than workers in other fields.
  3. Growth – STEM occupations are expected to grow by 17% from 2008 to 2018. Non-STEM occupations will only grow 9.8% during the same time frame.
  4. Need – There is a continuing need for people in STEM.  There is also a need to bridge the disparity gap that exists in STEM careers.

What are the disparities?

The census data (www.census.gov) that was gathered in 2011 shows the appalling inequalities that currently exist in STEM occupations amongst gender, race and ethnic origins.  The table below provides the data:


Total STEM Occupations Computer Occupations Math Occupations Engineering Occupations Life and Physical Sci. Occupations Social Sci. Occupations
Gender % % % % % %
Male 74.2 73.4 53 86.8 59.1 38.8
Female 25.8 26.6 47.0 13.2 40.9 61.2
White 70.8 67.9 70.3 75.2 68.6 79.3
Asian 14.5 16.8 12.0 11.3 16.9 4.5
Black 6.4 7.3 9.3 4.9 5.9 6.5
Hispanic 6.5 6.0 6.1 7.1 6.4 7.8

Consider that of the 7.6 million STEM related jobs in the US, 74.2% of the positions were filled by men and 70.8% of these jobs employed Whites.  The total number (%) of women in STEM occupations is upsetting.  But even more staggering is that only 6.4% and 6.5% of the people in the STEM workforce are African – American or Hispanic, respectively.  

As I consider the growth that is projected to take place over the next few years and beyond, my conclusion is that high school and college aged students in those underrepresented groups should definitely take advantage of every opportunity that is available to them if joining the STEM workforce is your goal.  That would include immersing yourself in math and science classes or participating in STEM enrichment programs in your area (high school, college, community organizations, etc.).  

Building your network is important.  This could include joining a STEM-focused organization or you can use social media to find like-minded individuals.   You could also volunteer for a company in your desired career choice.  

Find the best college(s) for you, then take the initiative to introduce yourself to the college(s) you want to attend.  Find out what programs they have to support minorities and underrepresented groups in STEM.  Additionally, learn what you need to do to get accepted in there undergraduate or graduate programs because they are often very competitive.  If you are serious about pursuing a STEM career but you are not strong in math and science, find a tutor, being proactive is a positive trait.  


Written By: Board of Director Joffrey Hooks


US Department of Commerce: Economics and Statistics Administration


Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin


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