It’s Time for STEM to Drop the “S”
The Sciences are Not ‘High End Fields’ Like Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
To Boost Innovation, Science needs more Women
There aren’t enough women in STEM, and research and innovation have long been restricted to the concerns that matter to…
In a recent post linking the lack of women in the STEM fields to stagnation in innovation, particularly with respect to women’s issues the author uses the term “high end” to describe the STEM fields. Other articles I have read on the topic have called careers in the field “prestigious”, “high paying”, “lucrative”, “a ticket to the good life” etc.
I am in total agreement with the hypothesis that the under-representation of women in the traditional STEM fields has resulted in an overall reduction in innovation (however that is to be defined). That cannot last and is long overdue to come to an end, though there is a very long ways to go. The under representation problem looks much worse if science (the “sciences”) are removed from inclusion under the STEM umbrella as I argue it/they should be. They are no longer (if they ever were) “high end fields” like technology, engineering, and math. With the possible exception of the mathematics heavy sciences like Physics and the not science sciences (i.e. data ‘science’), the remaining sciences simply cannot compete with their technology driven cousins when it comes to salaries, perks, and prestige. In particular the life sciences are about as far from a high end field as one could imagine. Perhaps not surprisingly these are the fields in which women are highly present, and in some cases dominate. My own field of microbiology is a good case in point. For example, in 2015 the American Society for Microbiology, the largest organization of professional and academic microbiologists achieved gender equity in its oral presentations at its annual national meeting. Interestingly it was noted in the meeting the year prior that that “the presence of at least one female convener was associated with a 72% increase in female participation in those sessions and a 70% reduction in the likelihood of an all-male session. The simple intervention of presenting the data from prior meetings was associated with an increase in convener teams comprising at least one woman and an increase in female speaker participation at the 2014 meeting to 43% from an average of 29.6% for the prior 3 years…” A similar story is seen in biology where about half of all graduate students are female. Although it was also noted that in the labs of the highest achieving biology professors women were greatly under represented. A 2016 article from the Brown Daily Herald and noted a similar trend and 2011 NY Times article said much the same. The social and behavioral sciences also tend toward much higher rates of female participation as described in the linked articles.
According to payscale.com the average pay of a working microbiologist is a whopping $19.53 an hour. That is the average, not the starting pay, the average pay. Meanwhile a mechanical engineer averages almost $27 an hour, and a data “scientist” close to $40 an hour. In fact the only life science(ish) field that can compete are medical doctors who average around $100 an hour (for a family physician).
I think we need a new acronym to better capture the high end fields that are now referred to as STEM. I propose TEMPP — Technology Engineering Mathematics Medical professionals. Any takers?