Open Accessibility Menu

Women in STEM Fields Encounter Discrimination & Harassment

Steve Wagner


  • Though issues of gender inequality are not confined to one industry, we recently came across a report that highlights just how prevalent the issue is in the growing STEM fields.
  • One of the most explosive conclusions of the report is that more than half of women working in science, technology, engineering or math jobs reported discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
  • These findings are being delivered on the heels of at least four decades of research about how to better foster diversity in the STEM workforce, but also at a time when gender related discrimination and harassment claims are making daily U.S. headlines.
  • If a worker has been discriminated against for any reason such as race, age, religion, gender, national origin, disability or even sexual orientation, he or she should speak up and not be frightened to report the incident.
  • It is against the law for an employer to fire or harass a worker for exercising their rights to report any type of discrimination or harassment.
  • Attorneys can help seek justice for violations of employee rights under the state and federal employment laws before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and in the Indiana state and federal courts.

New Report Highlights Increased Prevalence of Gender Discrimination and Harassment of Female STEM Workers

Pew Research Center surveyed a national representation of nearly 5,000 employed adults during the summer of 2017, to learn more about workplace discrimination and harassment concerns. Roughly half of the respondents were professionals who worked in the fast-growing field of STEM (science, technology, engineering or math). Though issues of gender inequality aren’t confined to one industry, several study conclusions were made to identify the alarming problem in STEM fields. In STEM, 50 percent of women reported workplace discrimination in these eight forms because of their gender, compared with 41 percent in non-STEM jobs.

  1. Earned less than a man doing the same job
  2. Treated as if they were not competent
  3. Experienced repeated, small slights at work
  4. Received less support from senior leaders than a man doing the same job
  5. Felt isolated in their workplace
  6. Been passed over for the most important assignments
  7. Been turned down for a job
  8. Been denied a promotion

“Discrimination and sexual harassment are seen as more frequent, and gender is perceived as more of an impediment than an advantage to career success,” the authors of the Pew report said. The survey results also showed that women are more likely to experience discrimination if they work in majority-men environments, have a postgraduate degree, or work with computers. Additionally, 74 percent of those women in computer jobs, such as software development or data science, say they have experienced discrimination because of their gender, compared with 16 percent of men in the same jobs.

In 2016, the Association for Women in Science stated that STEM employers offer a unique work culture, with a reputation of being more aggressive towards women employees versus their male coworkers. Discrimination and sexual harassment can also occur more frequently, and gender can define career success. In fact, about half (48 percent) of women in STEM jobs said their gender makes it harder for them to succeed in their job.

Pew Research Center conducted this survey with a nationally representative sample of 4,914 adults (including 2,344 STEM workers), ages 18 and older, using an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The authors of this report concluded by saying, “These findings come on the heels of at least four decades of research about how to better foster diversity in the STEM workforce in the U.S. and globally.”

How The Law Protects Female Workers

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment for workers of all genders. But since both employers and workers will argue there are many hurdles left to climb for female workers to reach full equality in relation to their male counterparts, and discrimination claims continue to rise, the attorneys at Wagner Reese wanted to take a closer look at some specific discrimination laws female workers have on their side.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Many discrimination claims are carried with the support of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), a law that makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is generally described as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. In addition, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) requires that “men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits. If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.”

These laws also make it illegal to retaliate against a worker because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Filing a Workplace Discrimination Report or EEOC Charge

Should your rights be violated by an employer or coworker, it remains in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney to help you seek justice. An attorney can support your charge under the state and federal employment laws before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, and the in the Indiana state and federal courts. At Wagner Reese, we fight for the rights of employees in claims involving:

  1. Employment Discrimination
    1. Gender/Sex
    2. Race
    3. Age
    4. National Origin
    5. Religion
    6. Sexual Orientation
    7. Disability
  2. Sexual Harassment
  3. Retaliation
  4. Wrongful Termination

It’s important to note that strict deadlines may apply to your case and you may be required to report illegal discrimination or harassment to your employer to be entitled to recovery of compensation. And remember, it is against the law for your employer to fire you for identifying unlawful discrimination or harassment of yourself or others.

Speak To a Lawyer Before Taking Action

Before taking an action that could result in your loss of ability to recover compensation for violations of your rights, contact us for a free consultation. The attorneys at Wagner Reese can review your case for free and assist you in filing a complaint with the EEOC and represent you in Indiana state and federal courts. Contact us now at (888) 204-8440 to schedule an appointment, or complete our confidential contact form and we will be in touch.

Additional Resources for Women Workers:

  • The Women’s Bureau at the United States Department of Labor offers an overview of federal laws protecting your rights.

  • The Indiana Commission for Women assesses the current needs and works toward the improvement of the status of women across the state.


Request Your Free Case Evaluation

Fill out the form below to get started or give us a call at (888) 204-8440 to speak with our legal team directly.

  • Please enter your First Name.
  • Please enter your Last Name.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
    Please enter your phone number.
    You entered an invalid number.
  • This isn't a valid email address.
    Please enter your email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.

Our Locations

  • Indianapolis Office: 201 N. Illinois St.,
    16th Floor - South Tower

    Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • Carmel Office: 11939 N. Meridian St.
    Carmel, IN 46032
  • Evansville Office: 815 John St. Suite 110
    Evansville, IN 47713
  • Fort Wayne Office: 3201 Stellhorn Rd
    Fort Wayne, IN 46815
  • Champaign Office: 701 Devonshire Dr., Suite C17
    Champaign, IL 61820