10 Facts: Women in the Workforce: U.S. Versus the Rest

From the Globalist

  1. In 1990, the United States ranked near the top in terms of women labor force participation rates in developed nations.
  2. Back then, only five nations – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Canada and Finland – ranked higher.
  3. U.S. female labor participation peaked in 1999 at 77%.
  4. Since 1999, U.S. female labor participation has decreased for 12 out of the past 14 years, bottoming out at just under 74% in 2014.
  5. While the United States struggled to increase the percentage of women active in the workforce, European nations thrived.
  6. As of mid-2014, six European nations had female labor participation rates of 85% or higher.
  7. The leaders among OECD nations are now Slovenia, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Austria and Switzerland.
  8. The United States now only falls in the low middle among the OECD nations.
  9. Since the end of the last recession in 2009, the U.S. labor force participation rate for women has fallen by two percentage points (from 75.7% in 2009 to 73.8% in mid-2014).
  10. However, U.S. women are far more likely than their European counterparts to be employed in full-time work, and are equally likely as men to be considered for managerial positions.


Why Just Filling the Pipeline Won’t Diversify STEM Fields

Why Just Filling the Pipeline Won’t Diversify STEM Fields 1

According to this Chronicle of Higher Education article, women and underrepresented minorities seem to be more discouraged about academic careers and are seeking professional development opportunities outside of academic research.

“I realized that a large part of my work would be tied to securing a very limited amount of funding and not mentoring students or thinking about research problems,” says Ms. Poston. She was also discouraged by how long it generally takes for scientific research to be put to use, she says. “I proactively sought out professional-development opportunities that would expose me to career pathways that were outside of academic research.”

Plenty of graduate students in the sciences may feel this way, but women and underrepresented minorities, who tend to find the academic environment less supportive, seem to feel it more acutely. That means it will probably take more than a robust pipeline of prospective scientists to increase the diversity of STEM disciplines.


How to Get More Female Computer Science Grads

 - Safia Abdalla, a freshman in the computer science program at Northwestern University - KENDALL KARMANIAN

In the US alone, there’s a 1.2 million demand for computer scientists/engineers. If more women were intrigued by the profession, they could help address the gap. But women only make 18% of CS/CE degrees. Recruiting and retention of women in male dominated careers is a problem worldwide. This Chicago Business article shares an approach to solving both the problem of recruiting and retention of women.

In my experience at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez (UPRM), where there are almost 40% of women in engineering, it takes a multi-pronged approach to bring in and retain women in engineering and computer science. You need to start as early as possible in making science and engineering attractive and non-stereotyped. “When gender perceptions and negative stereotypes towards women in mathematics and science are non-existent, the gender gap in performance seems to disappear.” according to a 2014 UPRM study. You need role models at all levels, including society. And most importantly, incorporating project-based learning is critical. Why the latter? Women’s perceptions, problem-solving approach and contributions make them feel valued. As Richard F. Baz from WPI reports, project-based learning has significantly more impact on women than on men. It appears that when women have connections with their environment they feel valued. Project-based learning allows students, especially women, to “build more intimate connections with people… because we were living with the people we were working with…”