Sharp Differences between Women and Men on Workplace Discrimination in STEM

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STEM Recruitment Poster
A campaign poster featuring Sandra Tsing Loh, creator and host of “The Loh Down on Science,” encourages careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) in Galveston, Texas. The US Army Corp of Engineers launched the campaign in 2013

By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent

Grace Ho Brosnon of Tacoma has worked in IT since 1993. The IT manager for the city counts herself among the 50 percent of women who told researchers with the Pew Research Center that they have experienced discrimination.

“There’s clearly gender discrimination,” said Brosnon to AsAmNews. “However, often, the individuals doing the discrimination do not even recognize it.  I’ve had several people comment that my English is really good which is sort of weird if you think about it. Nobody would ever say that to a White person.”

The report titled Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds over Workplace Equity also found that 22 percent of women surveyed say they have experienced sexual harassment.

The survey of 4900 U.S. adults, including 2,300 working in STEM, was released this morning and conducted this past summer prior to the current #MeToo movement.

PEW STEM Discrimination Study

PEW STEM Discrimination Study“This study speaks to the ongoing conversation about diversity in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce,” said Cary Funk of PEW to AsAmNews. “The findings highlight the divergent experiences of workers in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce depending on their gender as well as their race and ethnicity. For example, a higher share of blacks (62%), Hispanics (42%) and Asians (44%) than whites (13%) in STEM jobs than say they have experienced any of eight types of discrimination in the workplace due to their race.”

Funk says the study mirrors past research done by PEW as well as other organizations which found Whites and people of color have different experiences and views of discrimination. Types of discrimination examined include whether they have been treated as if they were not competent; whether they have experienced repeated, small slights at work because of their race or ethnicity; pay inequities and not receiving the same support as men.

 

What’s most troublesome for Brosnon is how she’s been treated as a working mother and the lack of support she’s received to care for her children.

“There are few working STEM females with husbands who sit at home and take care of the day to day kid duties,” she said.  “On the other hand, many of the men have stay at home wives or even working wives who seem to be more able to accommodate kid duties.  Therefore, when the kids were younger, it was really difficult to leave work on time to pick up my kid, deal with half-days, drop everything to be with a sick kid, or just accommodate the school in general.  Kids are only in school for 6 hours, including recess and lunch and only for 9 months out of the year.  With globalization, I found the 24 hour schedule pretty grueling.   That even made dropping off kids at day care difficult because meetings started at 5 and 6 am.”

While the PEW study doesn’t break down the percentage of people of color or women in management, other studies have found women and most minorities are underrepresented. Asians, while over represented in the Silicon Valley workforce, are relatively underrepresented in management.

“One key striking finding is the disjuncture in perspectives when it comes to fair treatment for Asians in hiring and promotion decisions,” said Funk. “Overall, 83% of whites in STEM jobs believe that Asians where they work are usually treated fairly when it comes to hiring and recruitment, compared with 62% of Asians in STEM jobs. And, 79% of whites in STEM jobs say that Asians where they work are usually treated fairly when it comes to opportunities for advancement and promotion; 53% of Asians in STEM jobs say the same.”

One positive, Brosnon says half her team at the City of Tacoma are women, perhaps pointing to the importance of diversity in management in any profession.

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