Women in STEM say gender wage gaps, promotion bias persist

March has been on the books as a national, month-long celebration of women for decades; Congress designated March as “Women’s History Month” in 1987. 

And still, perhaps unsurprisingly, women’s wages lag behind men’s. By Pew’s most recent measure, women make 82 cents for every dollar men make. This year’s National Equal Pay Day is March 12; it’s a date that “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. 

An area of particular concern is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A recent report, Women in STEM: A Quest for Equity, suggested that while half of women in STEM have received a raise in the last year, about 25% have never received one. Likewise, 45% of women in STEM say they have never received a promotion. MyBioSource, a disease test kit company, polled 600 women working in the STEM fields globally for the survey.

Getting in the door: A matter of representation

Women remain overrepresented in fields that tend to pay less, such as personal care and hospitality, education, and office administration, and they’ve only made incremental progress in male-dominated fields, the Pew Research Center shows.

For computer, science and engineering fields in particular, Pew polling noted that in 1982, 19% of workers were women. In 2022, that number edged up to 27%. 

For the women that have gotten their foot in the door, STEM is a microcosm of what many women survey-takers have said about their experience. The Women in STEM data shows women aware of pay gaps or suspect they are paid less than their male counterparts.

The missing middle rung

A lack of support throughout the talent life cycle remains a pervasive issue. A recent report by Checkr found that the majority of women — across generations — suspect that they are passed over for promotions due to gender. Almost 70% of all women said “they believe or are unsure” that men are chosen over women at work. 

The same report from Checkr also noted that those polled said they believed men also do not respect women managers as much as men in similar positions.

Transparency and advocacy as the solution

Many women in STEM are aware that they may make less than their male counterparts. But what’s poignant is that women who had female mentors tend to get promoted more: 31% of poll-takers with a female mentor said they had gotten a promotion in the last year, compared to only 21% of their peers, per MyBioSource’s data.

Likewise, women workers in the science and technology industries have said transparency about career progression is important to them, per a STEM Women whitepaper.

“It’s important that employers are transparent when advertising career progression opportunities and create company wide recruitment and policies,” STEM Women researchers said. “There also needs to be access to training and resources, alongside career progression discussion in annual reviews.”