A growing number of women in California and across the country are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in college. However, while recruitment initiatives are resetting the gender balance in the classroom, many women wind up leaving STEM jobs they are qualified for after graduation. Some experts are saying that the field needs to look heavily at how to address systemic injustices, particularly gender and race discrimination, if it wants to retain the talented people that universities recruited to study. In addition to issues with workplace discrimination in private enterprise, women who want to make STEM academia their careers have also noted obstacles in their paths.
In most STEM fields, there is a disproportionately low number of women faculty, especially women of color. Nationwide, only around 1.6% of all engineering professors are black or Hispanic women. While recruitment programs attempt to address some of the obstacles facing women in STEM, they may not necessarily undo gender discrimination that has been in place over long periods of time. Newer women in STEM also report experiences with discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment. Of 685 women in one undergraduate biology course, 60.9% said that they had encountered some type of bias based on their gender. In the same survey, 78.1% said that they have had to deal with harassment in the STEM field. This led the women to report decreased enthusiasm for the field. Black women in particular reported intense pressure both to serve as recruitment role models and to deal with discrimination and bias on a regular basis.
Women workers in academia and the STEM industry continue to face workplace discrimination and other barriers that may deprive them of thousands in income. Victims of discrimination may consult with an employment law attorney about their options to pursue justice and accountability.