According to a recent study by Kelly Outsourcing and Consulting Group, the United States currently ranks 12th in the race for STEM jobs—those in science, technology, engineering, and math—globally. STEM workers in the United States are a part of an increasingly global economy of innovation, yet the number of qualified workers in these industries is still lacking. The demand for STEM jobs has risen astronomically, but the supply of good candidates in the United States is miniscule. There is a huge talent gap when it comes to STEM jobs.
The lack of qualified candidates for these jobs is not due to a decline in the number of people who are obtaining STEM-type degrees; it’s because the demand is outstripping the supply. From 2009-2011, many STEM workers turned to free agency by starting down a more entrepreneurial track, which made it harder for corporate America to compete. The perks and benefits of starting your own business sometimes cannot be matched by a larger Fortune 500 company.
Women and minorities have made huge strides in the workforce in recent years. People of color currently make up a third of the workforce, a dramatic increase over the past decade, and women currently make up 47% of the workforce.
However, even with these increases, women and minorities still make up less than 25% of the STEM jobs. What does this mean for our economy? Is it an uneven playing field for women and minorities in STEM job fields, or are certain groups just not obtaining degrees in these fields?
The Chronicle states that the reason for the gender gap in STEM-related jobs is the lack of encouragement for women in these fields, and common misperceptions about these jobs. These fields are usually male-dominated, with only 0.3% of women who attend college intending to major in a STEM-related field. Minorities have also not been encouraged strongly enough to go into these fields.
Several factors play into the lack of qualified STEM talent. Often, men and women who are talented in these areas choose not to pursue STEM-related undergraduate degrees because they think the money is in high-tech. In order to fix the problem, STEM-related companies need to take a look at what draws graduates and professionals into high-demand fields such as high tech and make concessions in terms of the salaries and benefits they offer. Until they do, the supply of workers will remain stagnant while the demand continues to grow bigger and bigger, leaving the future of these fields in the U.S. in question.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.