Sociology Colloquium: The Problem with STEM: Gender Barriers or Occupational Dead End? Dr. Sharon Sassler

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
12:40 PM - 2:00 PM
Memorial Union Building - Theatre II
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The Problem with STEM: Gender Barriers or Occupational Dead End?

Dr. Sharon Sassler (Ph.D. Sociology, Brown University, 1995)
Professor of Policy Analysis & Management, Cornell University

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 12:40‐2:00pm, MUB Theater II

The under-representation of women in the science workforce is an established issue of concern to academics and policy makers. These discussions occur in tandem with, but separate from, debates regarding a shortage of skilled workers in science and technology, and recommendations by employers in the United States to increase the number of H1B visas to allow foreign-born workers to fill these positions. I utilize data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979) to examine the factors shaping transitions into STEM occupations following college graduation, and retention in STEM jobs. The results indicate that less than half of all STEM majors entered related occupations, though women who majored in STEM fields were no less likely than men to transition into STEM occupations. Adolescent expectations regarding gender ideology and work mattered, more so for women than men. Women who expressed family building desires that would mark them as “ideal workers” – wanting to delay or forego marriage and limit fertility – were no more likely to enter into STEM jobs. Men’s family expectations, in contrast, increased their likelihood of transitioning into STEM jobs. Among women who enter STEM occupations, retention is quite low, particularly when compared with professional women. Nearly half have left the STEM field after 10 years. The multivariate analysis indicates that the much higher rate of attrition from STEM jobs is not due to motherhood. Men who initially entered STEM jobs were almost as likely as women to exit their field. Our results suggest that women in STEM face particular challenges to entering and remaining in their fields, which demands closer attention from those concerned with a shortage of STEM workers and gender inequality. But this is also a two-sex problem, one requiring greater consideration of institutional and market factors.

Public lecture co-Sponsored by UNH Department of Sociology and The Carsey Institute


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