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Men outnumber women by more than 2 to 1 in US federal science jobs – Nature.com

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Women hold just 29% of the 335,412 jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the US federal government, according to a report published by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The report is based on data from 2019. The gender disparity is even greater in supervisory and leadership roles, in which women occupy just 26% of positions.
The under-representation of women among leaders has contributed to a gender-based pay gap. On average, women in federal research jobs earned just over US$84,600 per year — about $4,300 less than men earned. Men averaged higher salaries than did women in science, engineering and maths. In technology, women out-earned men by about $2,000 (just under $86,600 annually, compared with men’s pay of just under $84,600), partly because the relatively few women in that field hold a disproportionate number of senior positions.

Collection: Diversity and scientific careers
“There were significantly fewer women in technology and engineering than we expected,” said Carlton Hadden, director of the EEOC’s office of federal operations, in a published statement. “Clearly, the federal government shares the same challenges as the private sector in improving representation of women in STEM occupations. We hope this report helps federal agencies better understand the challenges facing women in STEM so they can continue to foster an even more welcoming and diverse work environment.”
The study did not report any data on non-binary federal employees.
Although substantial, the gender pay gap in federal STEM positions is markedly smaller than in other sectors in the United States. The US National Science Foundation’s annual Survey of Earned Doctorates tracked 55,283 researchers who received a PhD during the 2020 academic year; those who had specific employment plans (that did not include postdoctoral study) for the following year reported a gender pay gap of about $25,000. Men reported an average expected salary of $100,000, whereas women reported $75,000.
Overall, the US government has been more successful than other sectors at promoting wage parity, but there is clearly more work to be done, says Mary Theofanos, a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the US Department of Commerce based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Theofanos is a co-author of a 2021 report that examined potential bias in salaries of scientists at NIST. Even after controlling for job titles, that study found that male scientists and engineers, on average, enjoyed a roughly $1,000 annual pay advantage. “We were careful to make an apples-to-apples comparison,” Theofanos says.
The NIST pay gap has narrowed over time, Theofanos says. A similar, unpublished analysis in 2011 found a gap of about $4,500. “Salaries for our STEM staff generally favour men but appear to be trending toward gender parity,” she says. Equity is lacking in other metrics, however. Theofanos and her colleagues found that women were promoted more slowly than were men with similar education levels. Women were also less likely to reach the highest leadership positions at NIST.
The EEOC report notes that 14% of women in the federal STEM workforce filed formal complaints on equality issues in fiscal year 2019, including 1,986 concerning general harassment and 358 about sexual harassment. In a 2019 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, conducted by the US Office of Policy and Management, about one-third of the 227,506 female respondents said they planned to leave their current position, either for another job in government, a job elsewhere or another reason, such as retirement. The EEOC report found that women who had filed complaints were especially likely to plan to leave.
The under-representation of women identified by the EEOC report underscores a continued need for action, Theofanos says. “Recruitment and retention of women in STEM is important for us to stay competitive,” she says. “It’s well documented that we still have difficulties encouraging young girls who are interested in science and math to pursue STEM careers. If they survive the educational process, they face scientific cultural environments for which they are ill prepared.”
doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-02799-1
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