Women in STEM jobs are more likely to experience hostile work environments, including discrimination and sexual harassment, according to a new nationally-representative Pew Research Center study.
Research in the study reveals that gender “is perceived as more of an impediment than an advantage to career success.”
Women in three particular groups are more likely to see workplace inequities: women who are employed in STEM settings where men outnumber women, women who work in computer jobs, and women who hold postgraduate degrees.
The findings are particularly troubling as policymakers and the STEM sector raise awareness about the need for more highly-qualified STEM workers, and as women and minorities become more vocal about their underrepresentation and treatment in the technology industry.
(Next page: 8 forms of discrimination women in STEM experience in the workplace)
“Conducted in the summer of 2017, prior to the recent outcry about sexual harassment by men in positions of public prominence, the Center’s new survey findings also speak to the broader issues facing women in the workplace across occupations and industries.”
Half (50 percent) of women in STEM jobs say they have experienced any of eight forms of discrimination in the workplace because of their gender, including: earning less than a man doing the same job; being treated as if they were not competent; experiencing repeated, small slights at work; receiving less support from senior leaders than a man doing the same job; feeling isolated in their workplace; being passed over for the most important assignments; being turned down for a job; or being denied a promotion.
Of those eight forms of discrimination, the most common were women earning less than a man doing the same job (29 percent) and women being treated as if they were incompetent (29 percent).
“The majority of women in STEM positions work in majority-female workplaces (55 percent) or work with an even mix of both genders (25 percent),” according to the study. “But the 19 percent of women in STEM who work in settings with mostly men stand out from others. Fully 78 percent of these women say they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace–compared with 44% of STEM women in other settings.”
About half (48 percent) of women in STEM jobs who work with mostly men say their gender has made it harder for them to succeed in their job, compared with just 14 percent of other women in STEM.
Gains in women’s representation in STEM jobs have been concentrated among women holding advanced degrees, although women still tend to be underrepresented among such workers. Women are roughly four-in-ten (41 percent) of all STEM workers with a professional or doctoral degree such as an M.D., D.D.S., or Ph.D.