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Most Women and African Americans in Tech Say They've Been Discriminated Against

Science and tech jobs are among America's highest-paying and fastest-growing, but women and minorities in the field report they face unfair barriers in the workplace.
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The future looks techier than ever: Well-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—professions such as computer programmer, lab technician, doctor, nurse, and engineer—are growing fast. Since 1990, STEM fields have added 7.6 million jobs in the United States. But women and black and Hispanic Americans remain underrepresented in these professions, with significant numbers reporting discrimination and harassment at work. In fact, women in STEM jobs are more likely to say they've experienced gender discrimination at work than American workers in non-STEM professions, especially if their lab or office is made up mostly of men.

That not-so-sunny picture comes courtesy of a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The new STEM workers' survey puts hard numbers to recent individual stories of sexual assault in science labs and Silicon Valley. (The survey was conducted before harassment allegations against men like Harvey Weinstein brought renewed national attention to gender discrimination in the workplace.) Beyond sexual misconduct, it also addresses other barriers women and minorities face in science and technology industries, including unequal pay and being "treated as if they were not competent" because of their gender or race.

Such discrimination may work to lock people out of industries that might otherwise work as gateways to prosperity and equity. In fact, one of the reasons for the pay gaps between men and women, and between whites and underrepresented minorities, is because these groups are less likely to hold STEM jobs, which tend to pay better than other fields at every education level.

Below, a look at some of the most important numbers from the new Pew survey.


STEM jobs skew white and Asian.

Women are well represented in math and the life sciences, such as biology and medicine, but underrepresented in the computer sciences and engineering.

The proportion of women in computer jobs is actually lower now—one in four—than it was in 1990, when about one in three computer jobs went to women.

STEM workers earn more at every educational level.

Below is a chart of full-time American workers' median annual earnings in STEM and non-STEM jobs.

Overall, the median full-time STEM worker earns $71,000 a year, compared to $43,000 for the rest of the American workforce. (STEM workers tend to have more education than the average American employee.)

Many women and minorities in STEM say they've experienced discrimination at work.

Black STEM workers' most common complaints were being treated as if they weren't competent, and feeling isolated in their workplaces.

Meanwhile, women in STEM are more likely to say they've experienced discrimination at work than female workers in general, and men in STEM. It's worst for women in male-majority STEM workplaces. Women in STEM's most common complaints are being paid less than a man in the same job, and being treated as if they weren't competent.

American women in and out of STEM fields are equally likely to say they've been sexually harassed at work—more than one in five working women have dealt with sexual harassment.