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Guest Column: Innovation, Gender Diversity And Wage Equality

Author: Kathleen Willett
November, 2015 Issue

"Half the population is way unrepresented in STEM fields, and that means we have a bunch of talent not being encouraged the way it needs to be."

Corporate competitive strength and market growth, across all segments, depends first and foremost on innovation. What drives innovation in a corporate environment? According to the Center for Talent Innovation, gender diversity in the workplace is one of the most important factors in promoting innovation.

At the same time, female full-time workers still make only $0.78 for every $1 earned by men, a gender wage gap of 22 percent (as of 2013), according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Just last spring, Patricia Arquette pointedly reminded us in her Academy Award acceptance speech: “It’s time for women to have wage equality in this country!” Indeed.

The path to wage equality for women may start with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing and highest-paid segment of the job market tends to be the STEM segment. A woman with a STEM job earns one-third more than a comparable woman in a non-STEM job, and the gap between men and women’s pay is smaller in STEM fields than in any other, as shown in IWPR studies.

The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that since the 1980s, more women than men earned bachelors and masters degrees. That gap has been widening ever since and now includes doctoral degrees. Yet women are currently underrepresented in all but one STEM field: science; specifically the physical and life sciences, according to the IWPR. In some STEM fields, the number of women is actually declining.

Studies show that many possible factors contribute to the discrepancy of women and men in STEM jobs, including a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping and less family-friendly flexibility in those fields.

So, promoting STEM education for girls and making STEM jobs more attractive to qualified women isn’t only beneficial for women and their desire for wage equality, it’s also good for business and the economy.

Kathleen Willett graduated from college with a science degree and spent the rest of her career in STEM fields. A long-time Sonoma County resident, she can be reached at k.t.willett1@gmail.com.

 

 

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