WOMEN OF COLOUR IN STEM
There are far less women than men in the STEM fields, and few women reach leadership positions. Fewer still are women of colour.
In Australia, where one quarter of the population is born overseas, this social and cultural diversity is not reflected in the nation’s STEM workforce. In the US, Black and Hispanic women, along with other underrepresented women of colour, make up less than 5% of all scientists and engineers. In the top tech firms in the UK, women who identify as BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) make up only 2% of boards.
For women of colour, the STEM [pay gap page] pay gap is even wider. In the US, black women in STEM earn about 87% of white women’s salary and about 62% of white men’s salary. However more research is needed on different kinds of diversity in STEM – if we do not know the gaps that exist, it is difficult to narrow them.
In Australia, the reasons so few women end up in STEM who identify as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or are culturally and linguistically diverse, are multifaceted. They range from received and internalised messages about education, gender roles, appropriate career pathways, as well as access to education and explicit and implicit bias. All of these factors play a role alongside deep-seated structural inequities and racism, and span from the early years through to tertiary institutions and the workplace.
Faced with additional bias and inequity, women of colour are often overlooked even in well-meaning initiatives to promote women in STEM. Looking at the additional barriers that face women of colour and those who come from minorities (whether they be cultural minorities, LGBTQI+ or live with a disability) is called intersectionality. An intersectional approach must be taken to achieve STEM workforces that are truly diverse and inclusive.
The good news is that there is evidence of what works to encourage minorities into STEM and retain them once they are there, and that has positive implications for all of us.