The Existence of an Academic Achievement Gap

Workers and students in the American science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) sector face some of the biggest controversies in the academic fraternity. One of the biggest concerns in this respect is the existence of an academic achievement gap, especially between the two genders. Statistics show that the number of male workers in the STEM sector is higher than that of the females, which instigated an equality argument that has lasted for several years. What is more, scientific investigations reveal that ladies in the said industry are often mistreated and paid lower salaries than their male counterparts. In particular, this draws numerous concerns of the gender equality consideration within the STEM sector from the American public (Valant and Newark 331). However, several authors assert that these disparities are negligible in modern society. Notably, these individuals recognize the presence of the said gap but argue that it is necessitated solely by varying academic achievements. It is prudent to say that if students of both genders go through the same education system, they should attain similar qualifications. Consequently, this nullifies the arguments presented by those opposing the significance of the apparent gender gap in the STEM sector. Therefore, academic and job policies in the said industry within the U.S.A. should be overhauled and revised to facilitate uniform education and employment concerning the gender of individuals as this would provide a common competition ground that would boost productivity significantly.

Several studies have proven the existence of sexual harassment and assault on women in the scientific field of work. These mistreatments happened even in companies with zero tolerance policies on harassment and bullying. According to Clancy et al., however, such guidelines are rarely supported by enforcement and strengthening requirements. Specifically, this creates a loophole for the wrongdoers at the workplace to mistreat their female counterparts. Of all the surveyed women, only a small minority had reported the cases of assault and harassment to the respective authorities because of the fear of reprisal (Clancy et al.). Moreover, the variations between the experiences of male and female workers in the STEM sector necessitates the need to address both vertical and horizontal cases of abuse. Overall, the mistreatment of women in the scientific industry occurs regularly, even in the presence of zero tolerance policies, and it is motivated by the achievement gaps between male and female individuals.

Most STEM scholars end up with jobs in the academic world as professors or associates and assistants. Data from the American Association of University Professors shows that women in the said sector earn 81% of the salary of men in the same field (Curtis). The statistic is evident despite the substantial increase in the number of women in American colleges and universities over the past few decades. In particular, this proves the continued existence of the gender gap in STEM-based jobs. The overall difference in salaries is attributed to both the rank and institutional location of the affected individuals. In most cases, ladies are handed faculty positions at lower levels and, as such, they form the most significant portion of the departments in academic institutions that pay the lowest earnings. These arguments are supported by those of Taningco et al., who assert that although about 60% of women receive the undergraduate degrees conferred to Latinos, only 37% are accepted into STEM courses. Consequently, this reduces the number of qualified ladies in the said sector, which creates a significant achievement and qualification gap. Generally speaking, women mostly receive jobs with lower ranks and salaries irrespective of their qualification.

Moreover, numerous studies have been conducted to ascertain the pay variance between men and women in the STEM sector. It is important to determine whether the wage gap drops with the increasing experience and achievement of women with age. According to Carnevale, Smith, and Melton, the gender gap in the salaries for professionals in the STEM sector is small upon entry, and it is lower than the average of all other areas of work. However, this disparity increases with time mainly because the wages of women flatten, while those of men continue to rise. By the time male worker reach their late 40s, they are paid about 60% more than their female counterparts, which translates to approximately $36,000 in premiums (Carnevale et al. 40). These statistics motivated Carnavale et al., who say, “in short, although the wage gap in STEM is smaller than in other occupations, it is still quite significant, and it varies greatly over the course of a career.” (40) Neutral researchers on this topic also highlight the disadvantaged nature of women. For instance, data from the United States Census Bureau shows that only 14 % of engineers are women even though they have lower rates of unemployment. Summarily, women are underrepresented in the scientific sector, and their salaries do not increase with improvements in achievements and experience.

Conversely, studies have been presented by several researchers to disapprove the presence of gender discrimination in the STEM sector. Ceci et al. assert that even though this factor was a worry in the past, it is not the current cause of the underrepresentation of women in scientific careers (76). This motivates the statement by the authors, “current barriers to women’s full participation in mathematically intensive academic science fields are rooted in pre-college factors and the subsequent likelihood of majoring in these fields.” (Ceci et al. 76). Ceci and Williams also assert that sex discrimination investigation pertaining to the assessment and evaluation as well as employment of women is both costly and expensive. Arguably, these are problems of the past that no longer deter ladies from working in the STEM industry. Ceci and Williams, “addressing today’s causes of underrepresentation requires focusing on education and policy changes that will make institutions responsive to differing biological realities of the sexes” (1). However, this only explains why there are fewer female professionals in the science and math sectors. The theory fails to justify the apparent mistreatment and relatively poor pay of qualified women in the STEM industry. It is, therefore, prudent to say that changes in the education system alone would only increase the number of qualified female workers in the scientific sector but would not change how they are perceived and handled at the workplace. Therefore, the professional systems in the STEM sector should be revised.

The challenges posed by the academic achievement and professional gaps create a significant threat to the STEM sector in the U.S.A. Most researchers agree that these problems stem from the academic system and are magnified at the workplace. It is evident that the salaries of female workers do not increase with their experience and achievement, which is the main explanation behind the massive difference of wages of male and female workers in their 40s. What is more, women are discriminated in interviewing and hiring processes, and even those that are hired are often assaulted and harassed. Therefore, both the academic and job policies in the STEM industry within the U.S.A. should be overhauled and revised to ensure uniform education and employment concerning the gender of individuals. Eventually, this would provide a level playing field, which would enhance productivity significantly.