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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson June 12, 2017

Ivanka Trump on target with figures on women in STEM fields

During an interview on Fox & Friends, Ivanka Trump discussed the challenges facing women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math -- collectively known as STEM. It was one of the themes of her recent book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success.

In a discussion with the hosts about the nation’s employment picture, Trump raised the issue of where future jobs will be coming from.

"A lot of them are in STEM-related fields -- science, engineering, computer science," she said during the June 12, 2017, segment. "Women, for example, while we represent 47 percent of the overall work force, we only make up 23 percent of STEM-related occupations."

When we looked into this statistic, we found that it’s not far off the mark. (The White House did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)

Trump was correct about the percentage of the overall workforce that is female -- average Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2016 finds precisely that figure, 47 percent.

As for STEM employment, the most recent comprehensive data we could find was in a report published in 2016 by the National Science Board and the National Science Foundation, using 2013 statistics.

The report found that in 2013, women represented 29 percent of individuals in science and engineering occupations. That’s higher than Trump’s 23 percent, although it supports her broader point -- that women are underrepresented in STEM fields.

And if you recalculate the raw data in the report, you can get a few percentage points closer to Trump’s figure.

In coming up with the 29 percent figure, the report counted jobs in the social sciences. Some may not think that such fields as political science and sociology are core STEM professions, so we ran the numbers without that subcategory. This meant removing a sector -- social sciences -- that is 62 percent women.

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The remaining fields --  which include mathematics, computer science, life sciences, chemistry, physics, geology and engineering -- are just over 25 percent female. That’s closer to Trump’s figure, but still a little high.

It’s also worth noting that there is wide variation in the percentage of women from STEM field to STEM field. (Trump was referring to average figures, so we won’t lower her rating for this part of the equation.)

For instance, in "biological, agricultural, and environmental life scientists," there is almost gender parity, with 48 percent female, 52 percent male. In the field of non-practicing medical research, women actually have a majority of the positions, at 56 percent.

By contrast, engineering as a whole is only 15 percent female. The percentages are even lower in certain specialties, such as aeronautical engineering (12 percent female), petroleum engineering (10 percent) and mechanical engineering (8 percent).

When we ran our calculations by the National Girls Collaborative Project, a nonprofit group that specializes in increasing the number of girls and women in STEM fields, Erin Hogeboom, the group's community development and network strategy manager, said our analysis mirrors theirs.

"Women’s representation in STEM fields is distressingly lower than it should be, and the best way to support the argument for the need to change this is through accurate data," Hogeboom said.

Our ruling

Ivanka Trump said, "While (women) represent 47 percent of the overall work force, we only make up 23 percent of STEM-related occupations."

She’s right on the first figure, and she’s close on the second, according to the most recent comprehensive data. But because she’s a few percentage points off on the latter figure, we rate her statement Mostly True.

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Mostly True
"While (women) represent 47 percent of the overall work force, we only make up 23 percent of STEM-related occupations."
an interview on "Fox & Friends"
Monday, June 12, 2017

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Ivanka Trump on target with figures on women in STEM fields

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