How Remote Work Could Impact STEM Gender Pay Gaps

Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workforce, possibly forever. 81% of people who worked remotely during the pandemic want to remain working remotely some or all of the time. Remote work provides flexibility and opportunities that were rare just three years ago. Let’s look at the impact this could have on women in STEM and how this could pave the way for future generations.

What the Gender Pay Gap Looks Like

The gaps in STEM fields continue to reflect drastic disparities. For example, women hold only 27% of STEM jobs in the US, and overall, they only earn 83% of men’s pay for the same jobs on average. These pay gaps are even more significant for Black, Hispanic, and Native American women.

STEM has traditionally been male-dominated and continues to be so overall. Remote work could help remove some geographic and systemic barriers that discourage women from pursuing these careers.

How Remote Work is Affecting STEM

The impact of the pandemic has significantly varied depending on the nature of particular STEM fields. Professionals with hands-on jobs, like lab researchers and mechanical engineers, find it challenging to do their jobs remotely. However, those working in careers like software engineering and accounting have thrived in remote environments.

A silver lining for those who have not been successful in landing STEM careers is that work functions designed to be performed remotely have increased opportunities. This is good news for future generations of women and minorities looking to succeed in STEM, where it has previously been difficult.

First, less discrimination is being seen in remote work compared to office environments. There is also more opportunity to pursue positions which may have been dominated by tight-knit STEM cliques in local communities.

Second, the lack of geographical limitations helps offset financial constraints. First, STEM corporations based in large metropolitans can result in expensive housing and living expenses. Remote work allows one to live in the location they choose and can afford. Second, many more opportunities for professional development and mentorship are offered virtually, eliminating the barriers posed by costly travel.

That being said, there is still a significant lack of female representation at STEM leadership levels. Companies need to establish better pathways to help remote workers succeed and move ahead while offering the flexibility they need to handle personal and family obligations.

Preparing Students to Seize Opportunities

As we recently shared in the C-STEM 2022 Stakeholder’s Report, there will be more employment in STEM fields in the coming years. The pay for these jobs will be more competitive. Ninety-three out of 100 STEM occupations had wages above the national average. Many STEM jobs are “skyways” or professions that allow workers to leap into a more promising occupational cluster without having to start at the bottom of that cluster. 

That being said, our work in getting underrepresented and underserved students to that point is critical. Unfortunately, resources vary for students from block to block, even within the same school district. Most students who benefit from our offerings have never had any exposure to STEM activities.

Making sure every student has access to STEM curriculum options as early as possible is essential. But, more than that, we must ensure every little girl knows she has the chance to rise beyond the neighborhood or circumstances that might otherwise hold her back. Remote work in STEM provides even more opportunities to make these possibilities realities for future generations.

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11th Annual State of STEM Education Stakeholder Breakfast

Please join us at The Junior League of Houston from 7:30-9:00 AM

11th Annual State of STEM Education Stakeholder Breakfast

Please join us at The Junior League of Houston from 7:30-9:00 AM