Although countries have dramatically closed gender gaps in education and labor force participation, gender differences within education and employment persist. Women earn less income and work in lower paying occupations and sectors than men do. Women are less likely to become entrepreneurs, and, when they do, they typically run smaller, less-profitable firms. These gender gaps in entrepreneurship, incomes, and productivity persist at all levels of development, despite a multitude of policies aimed at eliminating them. And as countries move forward with closing glaring gender differences, other gaps become visible.
Women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, commonly known as STEM, is one of these areas, and one that seemingly refuses to budge. Although just as many girls as boys are completing high-school level education, and more women graduate from university worldwide than men, women remain a minority in the STEM fields. In the United States, for example, women earn only about 35 percent of the undergraduate degrees in STEM, a number that has remained unchanged for the past decade, even though they account for almost 60 percent of college graduates. And that statistic hides differences across STEM fields, with women earning about 40 percent of the degrees in mathematics, but only 18 percent of those in computer sciences or engineering.