Gender-based STEM gaps in government declining — OPM

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Though there are significant gaps between the employment of men and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields within government, a new Office of Personnel Management report said those gaps are narrowing.

Since the
release of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey in October, OPM has periodically been highlighting themes in federal employment and hiring using the survey’s data. After releasing earlier reports on millennials and education trends in government, OPM’s latest report explores the state of women in federal government, published the same day as FedScoop’s Top 50 Women in D.C. Tech feature.

“According to OPM’s analysis, there are more opportunities for women now than there were a decade ago,” the report states.
Of note for the federal IT community, the report highlights that the number of women in STEM-related positions is growing in the federal government and the percentage gaps between men and women “have been steadily narrowing.”

Still, the gaps are pervasive. Of all federal engineers in 2014, just 16.9 percent were women. Women hold just 30.1 percent of technology-related jobs and 33.3 percent of science jobs. And though women seem most interested in math, making up 35.3 percent of the federal workforce, there’s still a nearly 30 percent gap between male and female mathematicians in government.

But those gaps are progressively narrowing, according to decade-old FEVS data. “In 2005, the gap between these men and women in science jobs was about 47 percent,” the report said. “By 2014, the gap was 33.4 percent, a 13.6 percent decline.”

Many federal IT leaders gave advice to women pursuing a federal career in STEM as part of
FedScoop’s Top 50 Women in Tech list.

OPM plans to act on this data with its Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion, or REDI, Roadmap,
announced earlier this month, to bring more gender equality to the entire federal workforce. Women currently make up 43.3 percent of the federal workforce compared to 46 percent in the private sector.

“We’re working hard to remove the barriers to women having seats at decision tables at every level of Federal service,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said in a statement. “This report will help inform our efforts as we work to help women progress in their careers.”
To attract more women to the workforce, the federal government is promoting a more flexible work-life balance using tools like telework, alternative work scheduling and a new presidential memorandum that modernizes leave policies for childbirth. OPM is currently developing a handbook for guidance on the latter
policy.

“Our work-life policies are continually evolving to make the balance of caring for families and pursuing a career complementary, rather than contradictory,” Archuleta said.

One place the federal government already excels in comparison to private industry is appointing female leaders. While only 14.6 percent of civilian senior leaders are women, according to a March 2014 report by the Center for American Progress, 34 percent of the federal senior executive service are women. And OPM claims that growth is “particularly evident among younger women who recently entered the workforce,” the report says.

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Agencies, Government IT News, Katherine Archuleta, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), workforce
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