STEM Beats - women & girls

Five Top STEM High Schools for Inclusion & Equity

June 15, 2017

The U.S. News & World Report recently released its list of the Best High Schools for STEM across the nation. Schools like these help address STEM skills shortages felt by employers nationwide. But some of the schools on this list are especially dedicated to addressing the STEM challenges of inclusion and equity with programs and recruitment efforts that strengthen STEM pipelines for underrepresented groups. These high-achieving STEM schools make sure to serve the women, low-income, African American, and Hispanic students in their communities. Because the future of innovation relies heavily on our ability to find talent in untapped markets, we love to see schools ensuring STEM literacy for ALL. Check out these five champions of inclusion and equity in STEM education based on our analysis of the best high schools for STEM:

5. Early College at Guilford (Greensboro, NC)

National Ranking: #62

STEM Ranking: #4

Inclusion & Equity Score: 14/19

Early College at Guilford, the third ranked school in North Carolina, stands out because its students graduate with a high school diploma and up to two years of college credit from Guilford College. For those studying STEM subjects, this combination of diploma and college credits can lead to jobs with a strong living wage in a state where the median earnings for STEM jobs more than double the median earnings for all other jobs. That’s especially good news for the Early College’s 10 percent of students in the free and reduced lunch program if they or their families are unable to afford additional schooling.  

4. Troy High School (Fullerton, CA)

National Ranking: #326

STEM Ranking: #25

Inclusion & Equity Score: 17/19

The Troy Tech Magnet Program at Troy High School helps 93 percent of its student population reach proficiency or better in math, well above the California school district’s average (58 percent). These numbers are impressive considering too few students in the state, particular students of color, have access to knowledgeable STEM teachers. But with some of the best teachers in the state of California, Troy seems to tackle this problem well. Strong teachers paired with challenging STEM AP course offerings earns the 30-year-old STEM program in this diverse school a spot on the U.S. News' list.

3. Academy for Allied Health Sciences (Scotch Plains, NJ)

National Ranking: #200

STEM Ranking: #28

Inclusion & Equity Score: 17/19

The diversity of the student body at the Academy for Allied Health Sciences very closely mirrors that of the U.S. population, making it the most racially and socio-economically representative STEM school on our list. Also, we’re happy to see 91 percent of the largely female student-body (67 percent) scoring proficient or better in math; this is quite an accomplishment since female high school students in New Jersey lag behind their male counterparts in math performance.  Through challenging STEM coursework and learning opportunities at healthcare facilities, the school ensures student preparation for college and careers as doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals. Just as impressive, the economically disadvantaged students (13 percent of those enrolled) at the Academy perform substantially better than the non-disadvantaged students—a sign that students' income does not correlate with school performance here.

2. DeBakey High School for Health Professions (Houston, TX)

National Ranking: #18

STEM Ranking: #9

Inclusion & Equity Score: 19/19

We can imagine having an affiliation with the Houston Premedical Academy at the University of Houston makes DeBakey High School a future doctor’s dream school. Speaking of STEM pathways, entrance into the Houston Premedical Academy—a program designed especially for DeBakey students—gets you provisional acceptance into the Baylor College of Medicine. Since women tend to dominate many health professions, it may not surprise you that 59 percent of DeBakey students are women. But a little under half, 42 percent, of the school’s population qualifies as economically disadvantaged. Even though women and minorities make up more than half of Texas’s population, those groups are much less likely to become STEM professionals. Debakey’s programs help pave the way to STEM jobs for many of Texas’s underserved youth.

1. School for the Talented and Gifted (Dallas, TX)

National Ranking: #4

STEM Ranking: #6

Inclusion & Equity Score: 19/19

The numbers just don’t lie. Sixty percent of the children enrolled in this school are women, 63 percent minority, and 27 percent in the free and reduced lunch program. But what’s really catching our eye is that 100 percent of the students considered disadvantaged scored proficient or above in math! Because this is a selective magnet program, the school receives funding based off it's ability to recruit and retain students outside of its local attendance zone. In a state where science and math performance is greatly divided by racial and income lines, this approach seems to work well. The stats clearly show that Dallas’ School for the Talented and Gifted has a formula for education that supports high-achievement for all of its diverse student body—no matter the ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Not to mention its partnerships with local universities increase students' STEM course offerings. This school just might have it all.

STEM high schools included in this list came from the 2017 U.S. News & World Report STEM Rankings. CTEq’s Inclusion & Equity Scores were based off a point system rewarding schools for the percentage of female students, the total percentage of minority students, the representation of black and Hispanic students, and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. 

Tags: minorities, women & girls, STEM, Top 5

Michigan Tackles its STEM Challenge--with CTEq's Help

March 9, 2017

In the past few years, Michigan has roared back to life as a magnet for STEM jobs like engineering, and the state's employers are right to wonder if they will be able to fill those jobs with qualified people. Fortunately, we see strong signs that Michigan leaders are on the case.

On Tuesday, I was honored to testify before Michigan's House Education Reform Committee about Change the Equation's efforts to help the state identify and scale K-12 STEM education programs that are most likely to have an impact. CTEq's STEMworks has already helped rigorously-vetted programs, such as Engineering is Elementary and Project Lead the Way, receive $1 million in state funds. We have high hopes for much more to come.

Efforts like these are very timely. For a state that was ground zero in the Great Recession, Michigan has an uplifing story to tell about STEM jobs. For example, it has been a great place for engineers. The number of engineering jobs in the state grew 11 percent from 2006 and 2016, compared to a meager 2 percent for the nation as a whole. Engineering jobs will probably grow another 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than the 11 percent projected for the nation. That amounts to tens of thousands of engineering jobs.

Will employers be able to find the engineering talent they need over the coming decade? That's a harder question to answer. There is some reason for concern. First, they cannot fully tap the state's minority talent. Black, Latinos, and American Indian Michiganders make up 23 percent of the state's college-age population but receive only 5 percent of engineering degrees and certificates:

Underrepresented minorities in engineering

Women are almost as scarce in the field:

Few female engineers

There's good news on the horizon: In late 2015, the state adopted academic standards in science that formally incorporate engineering principles. If other states that have adoped similar standards are any indication, all Michigan students, regardless of race or gender, will soon learn the fundamental principles of engineering.

Programs like those in STEMworks will only help.

Tags: STEMworks, engineering, women & girls, minorities

Pennsylvania's Gender Divide in Career/Technical Education

February 23, 2017

Last Friday, I was honored to give a plenary talk to an inspiring group of career and technical education (CTE) advocates at the Winter Meeting of the Pennslyvania Association of Career & Technical Administrators. Before traveling to the Keystone State, I looked into some data on the condition of STEM CTE there. Two conclusions leapt out at me:

  1. In Pennsylvania, STEM CTE creates a pathway to solid and plentiful middle class jobs;
  2. The pathways young Pennsylvanians choose depend largely on their gender. 

In both regards, Pennsylvania resembles the nation as a whole. At a time when STEM employers are looking for all the talent they can get, this gender segregation is bad for their bottom line, the nation, and the thousands of young people who need access to more and better jobs. The good news is that advocates and educators in Pennsylvania are on the case.

You can download my presentation to PACTA here, or check out some of the major takeaways below:

Middle-skill STEM jobs in PA

PA girls flock to health CTE, avoid other STEM fields

PA STEM Gender imbalance--cte

Computing credentials below bachelors plummet

Engineering: PA women gain in bachelor's, fall in subbaccalaureate

Tags: Career Technical Education, women & girls

Where are the Girls? STEM Career & Technical Education

January 12, 2017

Career and technical education is no longer the forgotten stepchild of education reform. The plight of jobless Americans took center stage in the turbulent Presidential election and raised the stakes for creating pathways to the middle class that don’t pass through the ivy-fringed gates of four-year colleges. In fact, jaded Congress watchers believe that CTE may be one of the few issues that will win bipartisan support in 2017.

That’s good news, but converts to the CTE cause will soon discover what CTE experts have known for a long time: namely, that the gender gaps in CTE’s STEM subjects are every bit as large as gender gaps in advanced math and science classes. In fact, those gaps are growing. To create broad opportunities for all their students, states must meet this problem head on.

To gauge the depth of the challenge, we reviewed federal data on high school students who concentrate in one of four critical STEM CTE fields: Health science, information technology, manufacturing, and science & technology.[1]

The lion’s share of female high schoolers concentrating in STEM CTE study health science, while male students are more evenly distributed:

Not surprisingly, high school girls dominate health science, but they are scarce in the other three career clusters.  The imbalance has gotten worse since 2007/08:

CTE Gender Imbalance is Growing

In science and engineering, girls held steady at a measly 25 percent. [1]

The news isn’t all bad for girls. They dominate in health sciences at a time when the healthcare sector is growing quickly and middle-skill jobs in health command a strong wage, at least for those who go on to earn a two-year technical degree.

Still, the gender imbalances should concern everyone. it’s more than a bit troubling that segregation by gender is getting worse. As fields like healthcare and computing continue to grow, we cannot draw most of our talent from only half of the population. In addition, a growing body of research tells us that organizations benefit from gender diversity in the workplace.

What’s to be done? As with most problems that really matter, the solutions are multifaceted, ranging from formally recruiting girls as early as middle schools to redesigning CTE curricula to avoid gender stereotypes and providing CTE teachers professional development on how to create a welcoming environment for all genders. 

(Check out this handy primer on professional development for a fuller list.)

Employers should continue making the case for gender balance while identifying employees who can serve as mentors: female employees in advanced manufacturing, for example, or male nurses. Governors can use their bully pulpit to advance campaigns that encourage gender diversity in middle-skill STEM jobs. Career and technical educators can work with their schools and districts to design targeted student recruitment strategies that break through the gender stereotypes.

Each state or community might find a different set of solutions, but none can afford to ignore the problem. State leaders must dedicate themselves to improving matters. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, which is likely to be reauthorized this year, requires states to report on their progress in improving gender equity in CTE. It is not yet clear, however, whether states will suffer any federal consequences if they fail to reach their targets. There is little appetite for federal sanctions these days.

The solution is up to all of us. After all, everyone has a major stake in fostering a creative and robust middle skills workforce. We won’t get there if we allow boys and girls to go their separate ways.


[1] Health Science, Information Technology, Manufacturing, and “STEM” are career clusters in the National Career Clusters Framework. For the purposes of this analysis, we have renamed the STEM career cluster as “Science & engineering” to avoid confusion with our own definition of STEM, which includes the other three career clusters. The Science & engineering cluster includes “planning, managing and providing scientific research and professional and technical services (e.g., physical science, social science, engineering) including laboratory and testing services, and research and development services.”

[2] Data reveal that male and female enrollments more than doubled—growing by roughly 120 percent each. That said, girls did not improve their relative position.

Tags: Career Technical Education, women & girls, computer science, engineering

New data: Are Women Making Gains in Computing and Engineering?

November 22, 2016

In the past three weeks, we have been examining recent data on computing and engineering degrees. We have already reported encouraging news about the overall growth in those degrees and mixed news about the extent to which African Americans and Latinos are sharing in that growth. Today's blog examines how women are faring in these critical fields. Our verdict: there is not much to celebrate yet, but there may be some glimmers of hope.

Computing:

Let’s start with the glass half empty. The following chart looks far too familiar, even though it contains some new data on the gender disparity in computing degrees:

 Women still lag far behind in computing degrees

While men have surged past their 2004 peak by a healthy 27 percent, women just barely cleared their 2003 peak last year.

And the above chart conveys the good news, relatively speaking: it represents trends in bachelor’s and higher degrees, where women fared the best. Women have lost far more ground in degrees and certificates below the bachelor’s level:

For women, computing credentials below the bachelor's level plummet

Women’s share of bachelor’s and higher degrees tumbled by more than six percentage points since 2001, but their share of sub-bachelor’s credentials plunged by more than 20 percentage points over the same period.

Why is this a concern? Economists expect computing jobs to surge in the coming decade, and computing jobs that require less than a bachelor's degree are no exception. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, between 2014 and 2024, jobs for computer support specialists and web developers will grow by 11.6 and 26.6 percent, respectively. Over that decade, these two occupations will generate 265,000 job openings whose average pay well exceeds the $36,200 average salary for all occupations. The past decade and a half have seen women's prospects for such good jobs plummet.

And now for the glass half full: While some of these data seem discouraging on their face, the charts do suggest that we have finally stanched the bleeding. The decline in computing degrees and certificates going to women has leveled off.

There may be much better news to come. The last five years have seen an unprecedented national focus on girls in computer science. It will take a few years yet for that focus to affect college graduation data.

Engineering:

At first blush, there seems to be more to celebrate in engineering than in computer science. Women made small gains in engineering degrees at the bachelor’s level and above, even as they earned a declining share of credentials below the bachelor’s level:

Engineering: women gain in bachelor's and higher degrees, fall in subbacalaureate

The share of engineering degrees that went to women climbed 2.4 percentage points between 2009 and 2015. The decline in sub-bachelor's degrees is less concerning in engineering than in computing, because the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects little or no growth in engineering technology jobs, which generally require less than a bachelor's degree.

 Things are moving in the right direction for women in engineering, but too slowly. At this rate, women will have to wait roughly three quarters of a century to reach parity with men.

A closer look at the data reveals stronger trends in master’s and doctoral degrees since 2001:

Engineering: women make the largest gains in master;s and doctoral degrees

Women's share of master's degrees rose by almost four percentage points between 2001 and 2015, and their share of doctoral degrees advanced by more than six and a half percentage points. Women's percentage of bachelor's degrees experiences a slow and steady slump before 2009 but women have regained all of their lost ground since then. Initiatives to diversify graduate degrees may be bearing fruit. 

These data suggest that initiatives to diversify graduate degrees may be paying off, which in turn can promote more female role models among U.S. engineering professors[i] That said, we still have far to go before women receive a proportionate share of doctoral degrees.

It is simply too early to tell whether these charts carry the seeds of hope. They reflect what was going on in elementary and secondary schools as long as 20 years ago, and it will take at least as long to see the full impact of our current efforts to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields. If anything, they remind us that we cannot take our foot off the gas.


[i] Data are scarce on how many women serve on engineering faculty. Researchers should study whether women’s progress in doctoral degrees is affecting the gender balance of engineering departments.

Tags: women & girls, computer science, engineering

Pages