So far, the fields of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – are proving to be far less than equal for women.

A new study finds that there are fewer women involved in STEM education, are far less likely to be STEM entrepreneurs, and also lag in compensation for STEM employment even though it notes that there have been more women than men in college classrooms “for more than 35 years.”

So say researchers from RTI International and BD2, a policy research and analysis firm offering services, on behalf of the National Women’s Council.

“Despite the importance of participation across genders, evidence suggests that a gap exists between men and women in their engagement in STEM activities through their educational and professional careers,” the study says.

“A review of the literature reveals that in general, women are underrepresented among students pursuing STEM education.

“This gender gap persists in relation to entrepreneurial performance, where men-owned businesses outperform those owned by women in terms of firm survival, sales, profit and employment, across sectors.

“There also exists evidence of a gender gap in successful commercialization of research and development investments; this gap widens for firms operating in STEM fields.”

The study does not, however, include social science occupations. “The decision to exclude social science occupations was driven by the goal to focus on occupations with greater potential for commercialization activity,” the study explains.

Key findings include:

  • Men are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed in STEM fields relative to women.
  • Self-employed men in STEM are almost twice as likely to be employed in computer or mathematical occupations and three times as likely to be employed in architecture or engineering occupations relative to self-employed women in STEM.
  • Self-employed men are less likely to be employed in a health field.
  • In both STEM and non-STEM fields, men-owned businesses are larger, on average, employing nearly three times as many employees and grossing three times the amount of receipts than women-owned businesses.
  • In patenting, trademarking, and copyrighting “a distinct gender gap exists within STEM firms.”
  • Men-owned firms are significantly more likely to hold at least one piece of intellectual property than women-owned firms.
  • Women in STEM positions are often less prosperous than men with female-owned STEM businesses average $173,000 in sales versus a $543,000 average for male-owned businesses.
  • Women face “unique challenges” such as limitations to accessing financial capital for education or entrepreneurship, gender discrimination, and limited access to important networks.

“These limitations may account for the lower percentage of women who are self-employed and work in STEM,” RTI says.

The report cites data from:

  • 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) and U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 and 2012 Survey of Business Owners (SBO).
  • Self-employment information ACS data and business ownership
  • Commercialization of scientific innovations in its initial phase – the creation of intellectual property.
  • Prior research and policy literature related to women’s entrepreneurship and commercialization outcomes in STEM fields.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical to driving economic growth in all industries. However, in STEM fields, the potential for economic gain is particularly high, especially from commercialization of innovations. To drive growth, we need broad and inclusive participation from men and women.” said Laura Morrison, the study author who is an economist at RTI International. “Inclusive innovation begins with the pipeline of STEM-trained entrepreneurs. We need to facilitate entrepreneurial opportunities for women in STEM, as well as encourage women and girls to pursue STEM education.”

Read the full report at: