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A Tale of Two Majors: Explaining the Gender Gap in STEM Employment among Computer Science and Engineering Degree Holders

Sharon Sassler (), Katherine Michelmore () and Kristin Smith ()
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Sharon Sassler: Department of Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University, The College of Human Ecology, 297 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Katherine Michelmore: Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University, 426 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244-1090, USA
Kristin Smith: Department of Sociology and Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire, Huddleston Hall, 73 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824, USA

Social Sciences, 2017, vol. 6, issue 3, 1-26

Abstract: We examine factors contributing to the gender gap in employment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among men and women with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering, the two largest and most male-dominated STEM fields. Data come from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) from 1995 to 2008. Different factors are associated with persistence in STEM jobs among computer science and engineering degree holders. Conditional on receiving a degree in computer science, women are 14 percentage points less likely to work in STEM than their male counterparts. Controlling for demographic and family characteristics did little to change this gender gap. Women with degrees in engineering are approximately 8 percentage points less likely to work in STEM than men, although about half of this gap is explained by observed differences between men and women. We document a widening gender gap in STEM employment in computer science, but this gender gap narrows across college cohorts among those with degrees in engineering. Among recent computer science graduates, the gender gap in STEM employment for white, Hispanic, and black women relative to white men is even larger than for older graduates. Gender and race gaps in STEM employment for recent cohorts of engineering graduates are generally small, though younger Asian women and men no longer have an employment advantage relative to white men. Our results suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach to increasing women’s representation in the most male-dominated STEM fields may not work.

Keywords: gender; scientists and engineers; STEM employment; gender inequality (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A B N P Y80 Z00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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