Saturday, November 25, 2017
Business

PolitiFact: Ivanka Trump on target with figures on women in STEM fields

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The statement

"While (women) represent 47 percent of the overall workforce, we only make up 23 percent of STEM-related occupations."

Ivanka Trump, June 12 in an interview on Fox & Friends

The ruling

When we looked into this statistic, we found that it's not far off the mark.

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 employment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, 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 female.

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 nonpracticing 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.

So Trump is 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.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com.

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