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Ryan E. Day


Diversity in STEM Careers

Do we have a problem with gender inequality in the manufacturing and tech sector?

Published: Monday, March 8, 2021 - 13:03

With a hashtag of #WomenInScience, the United Nations kicked off its sixth annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science assembly. A short post on the BoldData website seems to suggest the STEM business sector may not have gotten that memo.

The unwomen.org prefaces the Feb. 11, 2021, event stating, “The world needs science, and science needs women and girls.” They also point out the undercurrent of gender inequality in STEM-related businesses:
“According to UNESCO’s forthcoming Science Report, only 33 percent of researchers are women, despite the fact that they represent 45 percent and 55 percent of students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels of study, respectively, and 44 percent of those enrolled in PhD programs.”

This kind of information gives weight to International Women's Day 2021 (which is actually today) and its own hash tag, #ChooseToChallenge. The IWD website states, “We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

Data on diversity

Data service partner BoldData made similar observations in its recent report that alleges startlingly low percentages of women in CEO positions at science and tech companies. The report seems to indicate glaring gender inequality at the highest levels of manufacturing and tech industries.

According to BoldData, the report is “based on our manufacturingconstruction, and technology database. All our data are continuously updated by various sources such as chambers of commerce, Dunn & Bradstreet, industry organizations, local commercial registers, phone books (yellow pages), local public institutions, open sources, publishers, and commercial partnerships.”

BoldData’s post reveals what a rarity female CEO’s are in information and communications technology (ICT) companies:
“Let’s start with ICT. According to The United Nations, female students’ enrollment is particularly low in ICT (3%). This number is reflected in the number of female CEOs in the ICT industry. Only 2.9 percent rank the highest executive role at ICT companies around the world.”

Next, the report illustrates the minuscule representation of female CEOs in manufacturing, with an all-time low in the oil industry:
“What about the manufacturing industry? 2.7 percent of manufacturing companies worldwide are led by women. When we take an in-depth look it appears that female CEOs can mainly be found in manufacturing industries such as Apparel (7.2% female CEOs) and Jewelry (6.75%). However, female CEOs are still a rarity in heavy manufacturing industry: only 1.3 percent. Zooming into the heavy manufacturing industry, we see an all-time low in the oil and gas industry: only 0.005 percent of oil and gas companies are led by women.”

Apparently, the construction industry also has a diversity issue:
“The glass ceiling in the construction industry is also a tough one to crack: with just 1.4-percent female CEOs worldwide. It might not come as a surprise that heavy construction companies (such as road construction and civil engineering) scores lowest with 1-percent female CEOs. The number of female decision makers at General contractors and installation companies ranks slightly higher with 1.4 percent.”

Analyzing the data

Getting to the crux of the issue is certainly not as simple as men’s vs. women’s career goals, or gender bias in hiring, although both aspects may contribute to the overall outcomes.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) suggests myriad contributing factors, including:
• Gender stereotypes
• Male-dominated cultures
• Fewer role models
• Math anxiety

We live in times of tumultuous change, and big, meaningful evolution is possible. I recently watched the movie Hidden Figures, which dramatizes the real-life contributions of three women at NASA to put Americans on the moon. The world has come a long way since then, but apparently, we still have a long way to go.

Being the change you want to see

Fortunately, organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recognize the need for continued efforts to improve diversity in manufacturing environments. The Manufacturing Institute—a workforce development and education partner of NAM—hosted a virtual summit recently on diversity and inclusion development, drawing together a variety of experts in one comprehensive event. The event is now available; watch the event online to assist others in their own efforts.

The Manufacturing Institute is also working to “inspire the next generation of female industry leadership” with its STEP program.
“The STEP Women’s Initiative is the nation’s marquee program to close the gender gap in manufacturing. STEP works to foster a 21st-century manufacturing workforce by empowering and inspiring women in the manufacturing industry through recognition, research, and leadership, as well as by motivating alumnae to pay it forward by mentoring the next generation. The goal is to shrink the gender gap and increase innovation by building networks and developing skills for women in the industry, and to identify and elevate the role models who can inspire the next generation.”
—Manufacturing Institute

So, how about you? Are you a woman in a STEM job or considering a STEM education and career? What is your experience like? Do you feel like there are extra hurdles for you? Please let us know in the comments below.


About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s project manager and senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20 lb tabby cat at his side.