Gender Differences in STEM Persistence after Graduation

Judith Delaney, Paul J. Devereux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)


Much attention is focused on finding ways to encourage females to study STEM in school and college, but what actually happens once women complete a STEM degree? We use the UK Quarterly Labour Force Survey to trace out gender differences in STEM persistence over the career. We find a continuous process whereby women are more likely to exit STEM than men. Among STEM undergraduate degree holders, women are more likely to obtain a non-STEM master's degree. After entering the labour market, there is a gradual outflow of females during the first 15 years post-graduation, so that females are about 20 percentage points less likely to work in STEM than men. Conditional on leaving STEM, females are more likely to enter the education and health sectors, while males are more likely to enter the business sector, and this can partly explain the gender pay gap for STEM graduates. Overall, our results suggest that policies that aim to increase the proportion of females studying STEM may have less effect than expected due to the lower attachment of females to STEM after graduation. Such policies may need to be augmented with efforts to tackle the greater propensity of females to exit STEM throughout the career.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-883
Number of pages22
Issue number356
Early online date26 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported partially by the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence Scheme, FAIR project no. 262675.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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