Centering Women of Color in STEM

Image: Arthur's Seat, Scotland

Women of Color -- particularly US Black women and Latinas, and Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) in the UK -- are deeply underrepresented in some STEM disciplines, principally physics/astrophysics/astronomy, computer science, math, aerospace engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Women who persist in these fields, especially women of color, experience isolation, microaggressions and sexual harassment. However, little is known about the finer details of this underrepresentation: the kinds of institutions where women of color are markedly underrepresented and those where they thrive; institutional policies and practices that lead to inclusive cultures; benchmarks about what constitutes an above-average performance. Access to good data is needed to address all these gaps.

Where do women of color graduate with STEM degrees in the US?

In this project, researchers in the US and UK are analyzing national datasets about the matriculation and graduation rates of Women of Color, as mediated by institutional-level variables (e.g. institution size and location, PWI/MSI/HBCU status (US), Russell group status (UK) or Carnegie classification (US), etc) and STEM subject (i.e. physics, maths, computer science).

The project allows for identification of exemplary predominantly white, coeducational institutions, and to create opportunities for peer institutions to document their own progress towards inclusion. Since most women of color attend predominantly white institutions, this work has the potential to improve the postsecondary educational environment where the majority of these women work and learn.

We looked for institutions which graduate a large share of women, women of color, and women from historically excluded minority groups. The Inclusion Score normalizes each department's fraction of graduates who are women by the fraction of women at that institution, then ranks that institution compared to other institutions in the US.

Our US data come from IPEDS.

Carousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel imageCarousel image

What are your major findings?

Many institutional factors don't affect the inclusion score.


Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are generally better than predominately white institutions.


How can I learn more?

Check out our portal. It's in early beta, so let us know if you see issues.

CWCS project project page

Meet with Dr Sayre

Who does the project serve?

We built beautiful and engaging visual representations of this data to enable data exploration. The portal is tuned for three audiences:

  • STEM professors and administrators who want to create more inclusive departments and are in need of baseline information about their own institution as well as a way to measure their improvement over time;

  • Researchers in need of information to better understand the dynamics of underrepresentation and identify powerful practices for inclusion;

  • Women seeking out more inclusive places to study or work.

Researchers from Eureka Scientific, Inc., Kansas State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, and the University of Birmingham, UK, will support institutions concerned with addressing this underrepresentation by creating a portal through which US and UK STEM departments can measure their success at graduating women (especially women of colour) to that of comparable institutions and to their own prior performance.

Researchers from Eureka Scientific, Inc., Kansas State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, and the University of Birmingham, UK, will support institutions concerned with addressing this underrepresentation by creating a portal through which US and UK STEM departments can measure their success at graduating women (especially women of colour) to that of comparable institutions and to their own prior performance.

This project is funded by UK Research & Innovation and the NSF, and grows from prior NSF funded work.