The top countries paving the way for women in STEM

Currently, women only account for 24% of those working in STEM around the world. On top of this, the wage gap between men and women in STEM professions is a huge $15,000. There are active efforts from many countries around the world to promote inclusivity in the workplace, but which are the best at championing women in the STEM field?

To find out, cloud cost intelligence platform CloudZero has analyzed all 38 OECD member countries. The study has looked at the percentage of women who are STEM graduates or are working in STEM roles, and the number of STEM job opportunities available in each country. CloudZero has also revealed the gender wage gap and average female salary in each location, to better understand the landscape for female workers in these countries. The metrics have then all been combined to reveal the countries who are paving the way for women in STEM.

The top five countries championing women in STEM

1 Iceland

According to the study, Iceland is the best country for championing women in STEM. The European country offers the highest average salary for females across all job types, at $79,473, and it also has a low gender wage gap of just 10%. Iceland also has almost equal gender representation in the STEM fields, as 45% of those working in STEM roles are female.

Iceland’s commitment to gender equality is proven through its Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Men and Women, which was established in 2000 with the goal of reaching equal rights in every area of society, including in business. The law also states that companies with over 50 employees must have at least 40% women on their boards.

From a young age, women in Iceland are encouraged to pursue an education in STEM, which is reflected in the fact that 35% of STEM graduates in the country are female. One example of Iceland’s equal opportunity education initiatives is the Hjalli teaching method, which aims to free children from gender stereotypes and promotes equal opportunities for all.

2. The Netherlands

The Netherlands has come in second place. The country has the highest number of STEM opportunities for women, with 13 available for every 1,000 female workers.

The Netherlands also has a high average wage for females, at $63,225, however only 29% of the country’s female workforce are in STEM roles. This could be in part thanks to the fact that often in the Netherlands, caregiving responsibilities fall unequally on women. Cost of childcare could also be perpetuating this, with OECD findings suggesting that more than 80% of the average earnings of women in the Netherlands goes towards childcare fees.

However, the Netherlands is one of the countries that are actively working to promote gender diversity across the whole workforce. In 2017, the country introduced a national strategy for tackling gender equality issues, focusing on the appointment of women to senior positions, the elimination of the gender pay gap, and equal treatment of women in the workplace.

3. USA

Following in third is the U.S, with the country offering one of the highest female salaries of $77,463. However, it’s important to note that this could be reflective of the U.S having the highest GDP per capita ($80,030), rather than its gender pay initiatives. Despite the high salaries for women, the gender wage gap is still very high, at 17%, showing that more efforts are needed to achieve equality in the workplace.

In the U.S, women make up 34% of STEM graduates. This is perhaps in part thanks to the country’s federal and state-level policies that promote gender equality in education. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, for example, prevents education programs from excluding people based on their gender.

The U.S is also the birthplace of many famous women in STEM, including Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT, and Nancy Roman, the first female executive at NASA.

4. Belgium

With the lowest gender wage gap of all countries analysed (1%), Belgium is in fourth place. In 2012, the government introduced legislation that was specifically aimed at reducing the pay gap. Under these laws, companies must conduct a comparative analysis every two years into the wage structure of female and male employees, and if this analysis shows women earn less, the company will be required to produce an action plan to rectify this.

One-third of the STEM workforce are female in Belgium, though only 26% of STEM graduates are women, showing there is perhaps more to be done at an educational level.

5. Denmark

Denmark rounds off the top five best countries for championing women in STEM. The gender wage gap here is also low, at just 6%, and women earn an average of $64,127. Despite there only being one STEM role opportunity for every 1,000 female workers in Denmark, women do make up 35% of the STEM workforce.

Looking at particular initiatives, in 2014 the government created the ‘More Women in Research’ task force to provide recommendations for more equal gender distribution among researchers. Since 2011 the Ministry of Higher Education and Science has also worked with top science and tech universities to define clear gender equality objectives, which is perhaps why 34% of STEM graduates in Denmark are women.

Top Countries Championing Women in STEM

Rank Country Percentage of Women in STEM Roles (%) Percentage of Female STEM Graduates Gender Wage Gap (%) Average Female Wage ($) STEM Roles per 1,000 Female Workers
1 Iceland 45 35 10 $79,473 1
2 Netherlands 29 29 13 $63,225 13
3 United States 34 34 17 $77,463 7
4 Belgium 33 26 1 $64,848 5
5 Denmark 35 34 6 $64,127 1

The top three countries for women who want to kickstart a career in STEM

The study has also revealed the top countries for women looking to kickstart a career in STEM, taking into account the number of specific roles in the science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering industries, as well as the number of STEM roles available per 1,000 female workers.

1. The Netherlands

Not only is the Netherlands one of the top countries championing women in STEM, it’s also the number one country for those women wanting to establish their STEM career.

The European country offers the highest number of STEM roles per 1,000 female workers (13), and in particular, there are currently a huge 121,167 engineering roles available in the Netherlands. There’s a wide variety of engineering opportunities in the country, particularly in sustainability and infrastructure development.

As we’ve mentioned, women are earning around $63,225 on average in the Netherlands, however the gender pay gap is significant, at 13%, showing there is definitely more work to be done to close this.

2. Luxembourg

Luxembourg has come in as the second best country for women to start a STEM career, offering the second-highest average female wage of $78,310. However, this may be due to the country’s high cost of living, and the need for companies to offer salaries to match this.

Luxembourg also has an above-average number of STEM roles available per 1,000 female workers (7), and as a member of the EU it offers women in STEM the chance to work on international research projects.

There are also several projects aimed at encouraging young girls into STEM across the country, including Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology’s Gender4STEM initiative.

3. Belgium

Belgium is the third best country for women who want to get into the world of STEM. The country has the lowest gender pay gap in the world, at a mere 1%, and women make an average of $64,848 across all sectors.

In particular, Belgium has 25,119 engineering roles available, as well as 1,003 jobs in computer science.

Best Countries For Women To Kickstart A Career In STEM

Rank Country Gender Wage Gap (%) Average Female Wage ($) Science & Math Job Roles Computer Science & Engineering Job Roles Engineering Job Roles STEM Roles per 1,000 Female Workers
1 Netherlands 13% $63,225 852 1,745 121,167 13
2 Luxembourg n/a $78,310 124 301 1,744 7
3 Belgium 1% $64,848 291 1,003 25,119 5
4 Switzerland 14% $72,993 284 2,043 29,218 7
5 United States 17% $77,463 73,151 103,318 889,085 7

Madeline Umscheid at CloudZero, comments: “To start your career in STEM, you should decide on the STEM field that you would like to pursue. Once you identify that, try to find practical experience to develop the skills you need. If you’re in education, lean on your school network to secure a paid internship.

“For those without a degree, try finding an entry-level role. Additionally, you should strive to stay informed about industry developments by building a peer network. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals in your field can provide insights and support. Most importantly, seek out inclusive employers as they are more likely to foster a supportive work environment and provide you with clear pathways for your career growth. Remember that prioritizing diversity not only benefits you but also enhances workplace performance.”

Methodology And Sources

CloudZero analyzed a series of metrics across all 38 OECD member countries, including:
  • Number of female workers
  • Number and percentage of STEM roles held by women
  • Percentage of female STEM graduates (most recent figure available for each country)
  • The gender wage gap and average female salary
  • The volume of STEM jobs available
Data from the OECD, LinkedIn and The World Bank was used to create an indexed ranking, which determined the countries championing women in STEM the most.

All data is accurate as of 18/09/23.

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