Women in science, math, engineering, or technology have a hard time at just about every level of hiring for academic positions, due to the unconscious bias of those who do the hiring. There's overt sexism, like that awful peer reviewer who said women researchers should get help from men, and subtler forms, like how male researchers tend to choose fewer female trainees to work in their labs. And the STEM bias starts as early as grade school.
This usually isn't because people intentionally discriminate against women and girls. Harvard has a fascinating research project that tries to measure unconscious biases. You may believe with all your heart that women and men are equally capable at science or math, Harvard's researchers say, but your automatic associations may show otherwise. This explains how even a feminist science teacher who knows she is being observed can still give a disproportionate amount of talking time to the white male students in her classroom.
Pao argued in November that the low numbers of women in technology fields isn't just a "pipeline problem" caused by lack of interest among women. The problem is that women are treated badly at every level of entry to these fields. One study found that an uncivil workplace culture systematically pushes women out of engineering fields. While 20 percent of engineering graduates are women, just 11 percent of all engineers are women.
When the Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, suggested last month that students majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education, he joined a growing number of elected officials who want to nudge students away from the humanities and toward more job-friendly subjects like electrical engineering.
Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy.
When it comes to dividing the pot of money devoted to higher education, at least 15 states offer some type of bonus or premium for certain high-demand degrees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.