The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in a new report that women make up only 29.3 percent of the Federal government’s employees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) roles, and that the government has a lot of work in front of it to begin narrowing that gap.

There has been a great deal of focus on women in STEM in the private sector, but little has been reported on the diversity and experiences of women working in STEM in the Federal sector.

“There were significantly fewer women in technology and engineering than we expected. The Federal government shares the same challenges as the private sector in improving the representation of women in STEM occupations,” said Carlton Hadden, director of the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, in a statement.

Additionally, the representation of women of color in STEM is even smaller. The report found that most of the women working in STEM in the Federal sector were White, or a total of 66 percent. By comparison, 14.58 percent were Black, 9.76 percent were Asian, 6.42 percent were Hispanic or Latina, 0.97 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.28 percent were Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

The report also found that STEM leadership is still overwhelmingly male, with men comprising 74.1 percent of leadership roles. That gap turns up both in terms of senior managers and executives as well as frontline program managers and team leaders. In addition, the report found that there’s an average pay difference of around $4,300 a year in terms of gender.

The STEM workforce had been predominantly male for decades. The report did acknowledge that the participation of women in these occupations has been growing, but according to Hadden, the government needs to take the next step in how it undertakes recruitment and retention starting at all levels of the STEM Federal workforce, and especially at lower levels.

“There are multiple STEM, cybersecurity, and other workforce initiatives in various states of planning or execution being driven by multiple entities,” Hadden said. “[However,] a more holistic plan would gain better traction, especially if combined with a FITARA-like scorecard that holds the Federal government at large and agencies accountable.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.