The underrepresentation of women in certain science, technology, engineering and mathematics and computer science (STEM) fields of study has attracted considerable attention over the last several decades.
Women’s representation in STEM fields can be affected by choices and barriers at different stages of their education, including their initial field of study and whether or not they complete the degree. Once they enroll in a STEM program at university, are women less likely than men to persist in the same program until graduation?
This question is answered in a new study, which examined a cohort of first-year undergraduate students in 2010 aged 19 and younger, and tracked them until 2015. In this cohort, women accounted for 44% of first-year STEM students.
The study found that women who enrolled in a STEM program in 2010 were less likely than men to remain in a STEM program over the course of their studies, largely because women were twice as likely as men to switch to non-STEM programs, also referred to as BHASE (which include business, humanities, health, arts, social sciences and education, among others). Women were particularly more likely than men to switch to a non-STEM program in the first two years of their studies.
Despite these departures, after five years, women still accounted for more than 4 in 10 (43%) of those who had graduated from a STEM program or were continuing in a sixth year of STEM studies. This was because many women who started out in BHASE programs later switched to a STEM program.
The study, “Persistence and representation of women in STEM programs,” is now available in Statistics Canada’s Insights on Canadian Society. It uses data connected by the Educational and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform to examine the pathways and outcomes of students over time.
The study was produced in partnership with Statistics Canada’s Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics. Additional information about the Centre and other gender-related studies and statistics can be found in the “Gender, diversity and inclusion statistics” hub.
Chart – Proportion of students in undergraduate studies who remained or graduated in the same field of study after five years, by sex, 2010 cohort
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at The Daily — Study: Persistence and representation of women in STEM programs