The Racial Disparities in STEM Careers

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Audience: Middle School and High School students

STEM, standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Having grown 79% in the number of jobs being available, since 1990, the STEM industry has outpaced all other industries known to man, surpassing business, tourism, and the entertainment industries.

With the number of STEM jobs nearly doubling from 9.7 million to 17.3 million within that 3 year period between 1990 and 2020, you may expect the racial demographics to even out over time.

However, there is a lack of diversity in the industry, and people of caucasian descent have an advantage over their non-white counterparts.

A study conducted by the Pews Research Center found that white people make up a majority of the general STEM workforce. In all STEM-related jobs, White people make up 69% of the entire workforce, while Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics make up 13%, 9%, and 7%, respectively.

Data Compilation of Diversity in STEM Jobs. Photo provided by Pews Research.

The disparities are stark far before anyone attains a full-time job. Research conducted by Campus Technology found that 19% of White students declare a STEM major, compared to 20% of Hispanic students and 18% of Black students. The differences here are slight; nevertheless, the changes become obvious when looking at the number of graduates from these degrees. 58% of White students with a STEM major graduate compared to 34% of Black students and 43% of Hispanic students.

With the racial landscape being skewed in favor of Caucasians, the gap between races and individuals’ ability to find work in the STEM industry continues to widen.

The preference becomes even more obvious when taking a look at the median annual salary by education level. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, White men make an average of $61,17, while Hispanic and Black men make $47,406 and $50,108, respectively.

When considering the annual income of individuals with higher degrees (Masters and above) the margin is not a margin anymore: it is a whole ravine. White men make more than their non-white counterparts yet again, with an annual income of $115,240, However, Hispanic professionals make $70,674, and Black professionals make $81,599. The salary gap is anywhere between $39,290 and $50,225. When the math is done, we find that Caucasians make about 1.5 times more than their non-white colleagues.

Bar Chart showcasing data about salaries of the general population. Photo provided by Pews Research.

It is can be observed that diversity is a serious issue in the realm of STEM. The general public has noticed for many years now. But now—finally—more and more corporations are starting to take note of the differences and diversify their employee pool in order to close the gap in the number of employees of each race.

To help diversify the employee pool, many new tactics are being implemented to help those who have the odds stacked against them. For example, there are organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) who work to advance the success of racial minorities in STEM Careers. In addition to the work being done by outside parties, some STEM moguls, like NASA, are providing funding to predominantly POC communities in an effort to diversify their employees.

STEM lacks diversity and that is a fact that has been noticed by many. However, there are changes being made. These efforts are coming in slowly, but in time, with the boom of jobs and the number of diversifying tactics being used, the gap between the races and the STEM opportunities can hope to be closed.


“11 Professional Organizations That Support People of Color in STEM.” RippleMatch,

Friedman06/17/19, Sara. “Racial Disparities in STEM Graduation Rates.” Campus Technology,

Funk, Cary, and Kim Parker. “Diversity in the STEM Workforce Varies Widely across Jobs.” Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 31 Dec. 2019,

Graf, Nikki, et al. “7 Facts about the STEM Workforce.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 21 Aug. 2020,,outpacing%20overall%20U.S.%20job%20growth.

May, Sandra. “MUREP Opportunities and Resources.” NASA, NASA, 22 Aug. 2017,

Stephen Miller, CEBS. “Black Workers Still Earn Less than Their White Counterparts.” SHRM, SHRM, 7 Aug. 2020,

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