Studies show that having a diverse academic faculty benefit students, who see themselves and their career aspirations represented, and leads to better student outcomes in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs. Studies repeatedly show that students have better outcomes, including persisting in STEM and graduating, when there is faculty diversity. While most faculty members and administrative leaders are White, students look to professors from diverse backgrounds as role models and mentors. As such, faculty diversity is key to student success.

The absence of faculty diversity in STEM, therefore, has broader implications, as it discourages many students of color from pursuing STEM degrees and careers. This can potentially have negative consequences for both the students themselves and society. Rapid expansion and advancements in STEM over the last several decades have led to a heightened demand for STEM professionals, who tend to earn higher salaries (STEM, $77,400; non-STEM, $46,900).

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that STEM jobs will increase by nearly twice the rate of other jobs in the next 10 years. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of bachelor’s degrees granted in STEM subjects surged 62%, which is more than three times greater than the 20% rise in all bachelor’s degrees awarded over that same period.

Yet, despite the strong interest and higher pay in STEM careers, vast disparities in attainment by race, ethnicity, and gender persist in STEM education and employment, thereby limiting access and opportunities for social and economic mobility for some — particularly women and people of color. Women, and especially women of color, also fare worse in STEM jobs, as many are paid less than their male counterparts. Often, women need more degrees and, consequently, take out more loans to generate an income that is comparable to that of their male colleagues. We recognize that achieving STEM equity in degree attainment and in the workplace is interconnected with other systems and structures.

Students from marginalized groups, especially women, still have less access to AP STEM courses in high school and lower STEM degree attainment rates than their White male colleagues. Moreover, a significant number of STEM graduates of color come out of a small number of colleges and universities with diverse faculties; HBCUs, for example, produce 25% of      all Black graduates in STEM fields.

How equitable are current STEM pathways?

Women, especially women of color, hold only a small minority of STEM jobs. It is also important to note that STEM degree attainment and jobs vary by field. For example, women and people of color are underrepresented in higher-paying STEM jobs, such as engineering and computing; whereas they have significantly more representation in the biological and behavioral sciences. Women are also more likely to leave STEM occupations. Black and Latino STEM students and professionals, particularly women, routinely face harassment, workplace discrimination, and unequal pay. So, it’s not surprising that Black and Latino STEM workers are underrepresented in the labor market. Black people comprise 11% of all workers but only 9% of STEM workers, while Latinos comprise 17% of the total workforce but hold only 8% of STEM jobs.

To better understand STEM attainment for women of color in the last decade, we used publicly available data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to compare STEM degree attainment with overall degree attainment trends from 2010-2019 (1). We focused on doctoral degree attainment, as this is highly correlated with both faculty careers and careers in research and development (R&D).

In our findings, we centered the experiences of Black and Latina women in STEM, as they face a “double-bind” and have been excluded from STEM spaces. Despite this exclusion, we recognize that Black and Latina women engage in STEM work and have contributed significantly to STEM innovations, which often receive little recognition. By identifying and addressing a need for increased support for women of color in STEM, we can provide a path for more equitable opportunities and outcomes.

Key Findings

In our analysis of STEM attainment rates by race/ethnicity and gender, (2) we found that there are still persistent inequities in STEM degree attainment for people of color, women, and women of color. We also found that increases in STEM doctoral degrees are not proportional to the rate at which women earn doctoral degrees generally. In all cases, women outpace men in earning associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees; but in STEM, men within the same race or ethnicity have surpassed women for the last 10 years. Our data suggests that women of color face compounding challenges in STEM pathways.

While no single key finding summarizes the experiences of the individuals whose identities and academic careers are represented in this sample, we have identified several broad trends:

  • STEM degree attainment gaps by gender have persisted over the last 10 years.
  • In every racial/ethnic group, women outpace men in overall degree attainment; however, when solely looking at STEM degrees, men outpace women (Black men, 14.3%; Black women, 9.2%: Latino men, 26.3%; Latina women, 13.9%).

Data on Black women in STEM

  • Until 2013, Black women surpassed Black men in STEM doctoral attainment. Between 2013 and 2014, attainment among Black women and men decreased, but after 2014, Black men began outpacing Black women in attainment of STEM doctoral degrees.
  • Overall doctoral degree attainment among Black women increased to 5.4% in 2019, up from 4.3% in 2010.
  • STEM doctoral degree attainment among Black women decreased from 1.3% to 1.1% between 2010 to 2019, with varying percentages over those years. (Note: There is a relatively low number of Black women in STEM doctoral degree programs which may impact how we interpret our data).
  • From 2010-2019, Black women earned more doctoral degrees overall but fewer STEM doctoral degrees as a group.

Data on Latina women in STEM

  • Overall doctoral degree attainment among Latinas increased from 2.8% to 4.3% from 2010 to 2019.
  • STEM doctoral degree attainment among Latinas only rose from 1.4% to 1.7% over the same period.
  • From 2010-2019, Latinas earned more doctoral degrees overall but fewer STEM doctoral degrees.

Our dashboard allows users to see various trends grouped by race/ethnicity/gender/degree type. But the data is just one part of picture; as readers engage with it, we ask them to remember that the numbers represent people and their lived experiences.

Without a nurturing, encouraging academic environment, students do not have the same opportunity to thrive as they would with greater support. Many women of color in STEM face a host of barriers, including challenging campus climates; racism and sexism, absence of diverse faculty; a lack of culturally relevant curricula; and individualistic culture. Without pathways to higher-paying jobs, including STEM careers, Black women and Latinas will continue to earn disproportionately low salaries.

Advancing STEM equity also includes combating racism and sexism in higher education and the workplace. STEM exists within these broader systems and is therefore impacted by policies and practices that push women of color out of STEM fields. In an ever advancing and changing world, now more than ever there is a need for diverse voices and innovative thinking. It is through the collaborative and collective efforts of all STEM thinkers and doers that we will be able to solve problems such as climate change and wealth inequality.

What leaders can do to increase the number of women of color in STEM

The societal and economic benefits of increasing training and education for STEM careers to meet growing labor market demands have been widely acknowledged by many policymakers and leaders.


At the federal level, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act of 2022 was developed to “ensure the future is made in ALL of America and unlock opportunities in science and technology for those who have been historically left out,” with the goal of propelling the U.S. to lead the globe in STEM advancement. Additionally, President Joe Biden signed a federal omnibus package aimed at increasing research and development across agencies and specifically highlighted the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). Programs like the U.S. Department of Education’s Raise the Bar: STEM Excellence for All Students Initiative and Sec. Miguel Cardona’s recent efforts to promote equity in access to resources and opportunities through discretionary grants acknowledge the growing demand for diversity in STEM.

Additionally, the federal government can improve career pathways in STEM for women of color by investing additional funds in MSIs and community colleges; undergraduate and graduate research opportunities; interventions and initiatives that improve access and success and provide technical assistance for institutions and states working to improve systems and supports for students, such as robust longitudinal data systems and investments in R&D infrastructure.


The CHIPS Act of 2022 invests $13.2 billion in R&D and workforce development, increasing the number of graduates and workers in STEM fields over time and provides resources funding for training and educational opportunities starting in K-12 and continuing through graduate-level education. It also aims to expand access to STEM by:

  • Providing funding to increase the participation of historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, and minority-serving institutions in scientific research and technology-based economic development.
  • Providing more STEM opportunities to historically underrepresented groups so they can pursue degrees and careers in STEM and get participate in high-paying skilled jobs.


At the state level, leaders and advocacy groups are investigating ways to create better alignment with state and local employment needs. For example, Washington STEM, an education nonprofit organization based in Seattle, WA, is helping state lawmakers craft policies that remove barriers and create more pathways to address STEM education issues, such as the underrepresentation of certain student groups, including women of color.

We encourage more state leaders to invest in college and career readiness and increase access to AP coursework and need-based scholarship programs to better prepare more students for STEM education and career pathways. We also urge state leaders to increase support for evidence-based student success initiatives, remove barriers for transfer and articulation between colleges, and target funding to institutions that serve the most Black and Latino students and students from low-income families.

Institutions of Higher Education

At the institutional level, colleges can expand STEM pathways for Black women and Latinas by increasing the representation of diverse faculty and improving campus racial climates, which has proven positive effects on outcomes for students and faculty, particularly for women and students of color in STEM. Additionally, colleges can partner with organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) to provide academic support, community, and professional development for Black and Latino students pursuing STEM. Institutions can also seek out technical assistance opportunities to increase funding for research and programming and provide technical assistance at campuses serving the most Black and Latino students.

We know faculty diversity and student success are interrelated and that the former can have a positive impact on the latter; so it stands to reason that increasing the diversity of faculty in STEM would help increase the number of students of color pursuing STEM degrees and careers. Closing the gap in access to higher education is a crucial step toward creating a more just and equitable society. And investing in the success of students of color is vital for the future economic competitiveness and social cohesion of our country. Empowering more women of color to pursue and thrive in STEM careers would help create a dynamic and innovative workforce that can advance the country’s competitiveness in a technology-driven global economy.


  1. Our analysis uses male/female categories, as those were the only gender categories in NCES data. We know this data and our dashboard are limited in that they do not represent the full spectrum of gender identities and operate from a traditional and exclusionary binary. As data analysts, we know that the data that is reported reflects power and hegemony. So, when engaging with this data, we ask readers to exercise caution and keep in mind that it does not represent all identities.
  2. For this analysis, we took the number for each racial/ethnicity-gender-year-award level combination and divided that number by the total degrees for the corresponding award level and year. We conducted these calculations for both STEM degrees (all ward levels) and all degrees (all award levels). For example, we took the number of Black female doctoral students in 2017 and divided it by the total doctoral degrees awarded in 2017. We completed this process for both STEM and all degrees.

About the Authors

Brianna Wright is a doctoral student in higher education and organizational change at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a former intern at The Education Trust.

Olivia Gunther is a recent graduate of the master of public policy program at the University of Chicago and a former higher education data/research intern at The Education Trust.

Jinann Bitar is director of higher education research & data analytics at The Education Trust.

NOTE: Readers should consider the identities of the primary authors when engaging with the data in this blog and also note that the authors are represented in this data in various ways. For example, Briana Wright is Afro-Latina and Olivia Gunther is White. Both are women who’ve taken STEM courses and use quantitative methods and data analytics in their professional work, and both have encountered challenges in academic environments dominated by people who do not look like them, but they experience the world differently on account of their different intersecting identities. No two people’s experiences and positionality are alike, so we can only create more equity in STEM by paying attention to multiple perspectives and recognizing that women of color are significantly underrepresented in STEM spaces.