Category Archives: demographics

STEM Programs’ Cultures Need to Change, Study Finds

Research companies eager to hire more female and minority scientists to their mix may want to consider these latest findings of the Bayer Facts of Science Education XV survey.

In this, the 15th such survey by Bayer Corp., 413 science, technology, engingeering and mathematics department chairs were polled from the United States’ leading research universities and those that produce the most African-American, Hispanic and American Indian graduates.

Researchers found that, although American women entering college are the best-prepared academically to successfully graduate with STEM degrees, women and underrepresented minorities still lag way behind Caucasian and Asian males in actually securing those degrees and going on to work in those fields.

The survey asked respondents to shed light on the educational environments in which this shift occurs and found a noticeable lack of encouragement for females and minorities to pursue these studies by departments still headed up by mostly male (87 percent) and Caucasian (88 percent) chairs.

“One of the greatest challenges most universities face is changing the cuture of teaching and learning in STEM courses,” says Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who chaired the National Academies committee that produced the 2010 report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science & Technology Talent at the Crossroads.

“Too often,” he says, “we in higher education believe high quality is related to how many students are weeded out of STEM courses. Instead, the emphasis should be on rigorous course work coupled with support, together leading to larger numbers of students succeeding academically.”

Greg Babe, Bayer’s president and CEO, says this latest research “adds an important, unheard voice to the national discussion about how we as a country need to broaden student participation in STEM to include more women and minorities.”

Although the release about the study doesn’t detail the part corporate America should play, I would venture to guess if more universities heard from more employers dissatisfied with the numbers of women and minorities graduating from these programs and coming to them as qualified job candidates, the impetus to change that culture might be that much greater.

Study: Older Workers are the Most Engaged

New research from Boston College’s Sloan Center on Aging & Work finds that employees 40 years old and older are the most engaged and demonstrate the the highest level of organizational commitment. It also finds that those 50 years old and older are the most satisfied with their jobs.

The Sloan Center’s Generations of Talent Study gathered data about work experiences from 11,298 individuals working for seven multinational companies, at 24 worksites in 11 countries. The researchers divided the countries into “old-developed countries,” or those with older populations and developed market economies (Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the U.K., the U.S.) and “young-developing countries,” or those with younger populations and developing market economies (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Botswana).

In both sets of countries, workers 40 years old and older reported higher levels of engagement, organizational commitment and job satisfaction than their younger colleagues, the study found. It also found that job satisfaction is highest among those 50 and older and nearly as high wtih those who are younger than 30.

“Contrary to popular opinion, older workers are the most engaged, and forward-thinking companies need to begin strategizing about how to capitalize on this asset,” said Dr. Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, the Sloan Center’s director.

Data Shows Educated Women More Prominent in the Workplace, a digital resource for online education, just put out an analysis of Forbes‘ list of the World’s Most Powerful Women of 2011, called “Wonder Women,” showing 56 of those 100 women holding graduate degrees.

The salaries of these educated women are also going up, according to the analysis: Since 1979, women with college educations have seen a higher increase in average earnings than men.

Perhaps the most striking statistic is that, of the 100 Most Powerful Women, 88 percent have children. Not coincidentally, many work in family-friendly companies — such as Kraft Foods and Morgan Stanley — that provide fully-paid maternity leaves (something all countries but the United States, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea guarantee today).

“Juggling a powerful career and a family can be a lot for anyone to handle,” says Seth Restaino, spokesperson for OnlineSchools. “However, this list … proves that it can be done … .”

But just how motivated women are, in general, to pursue this upper echelon appears to be another matter. I’m in the process of analyzing for our website ( a nationwide study recently put out by More magazine showing 43 percent of women surveyed saying they’re less ambitious now than they were a decade ago.

Another eye-opener in that survey: 73 percent say they would not apply for their boss’ job. Two of three women in the poll, conducted by The Polling Company Inc./WomanTrend, say they prefer more free time over more pay and two of five say they’d be willing to accept less pay for more workplace flexibility.

More on that More poll to come. For now, as to the real status of women in corporate America, it appears the jury’s still out on where we really are, and where we’re headed.

Report: Employees Getting More Suicidal

Thoughts of suicide are permeating the workplace, according to Harris, Rothenberg International, a New York-based firm that provides EAP, work/life consulting and other services to employers. Calls to HRI’s EAP counselors from employees contemplating suicide and managers concerned about suicidal employees are up 33 percent compared to the period a year ago, according to the company.

Not surprisingly, the lousy economy’s a big factor. HRI points to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention entitled “Impact of Business Cycles on the U.S. Suicide Rates, 1928-2007,” which notes that suicide rates rise and fall with the economy.  What’s tragic, as HRI points out, is that many people with suicidal thoughts avoid getting help and instead try and “tough it out” on their own.

Suicidal thoughts are often triggered by despair over workplace changes wrought by the economy, says HRI’s director of clinical services, Dr. Randy Martin. Many employees thought (or were led to believe) that changes were temporary, but when they realize that’s not the case, despair can set in, he says. Some employees struggle with grief over the loss of coworkers who were downsized, while others deal with enormous stress and anxiety from generational conflicts with bosses who may be younger than them.

“There has been a significant increase in employee stress and anxiety from 2010 through the year to date, and overwhelmed employees who cannot see some light at the end of the tunnel may feel powerless, hopeless, angry and disenfranchised, which can lead to self-harming thoughts and behaviors,” says Martin. “The economic crisis has become a human crisis.”



Ding Dong, The MANcession’s Dead

Great news for those of us born with the Y chromosome: The so-called “mancession,” which saw employment among men decline by more than 5.2  million between late 2007 and the end of 2009, may finally be over, according to the prolific folks at outplacement-consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Since January 2010, male employment has risen by almost 1.7 million, according to Challenger, which uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just within the last 12 months alone, 686,000 men have found jobs–with the caveat that the unemployment rate among males is still at 8.9 percent.

Women, on the other hand, now seem to be faring more poorly than men on the jobs front–only 365,000 of them have found jobs since January 2010, while the number of employed women has fallen by 85,000 in the last 12 months. With male-dominated industries like construction, auto manufacturing and financial services shedding jobs like crazy earlier in the recession, it seemed that men were bearing the brunt of the economic downturn. Today, amidst the putative recovery, government cutbacks and slashed education budgets mean that women are now dealing with a disproportionate share of job losses in part becuase the aforementioned sectors are dominated by women–for example, women account for 62 percent of local-government workforces, according to Challenger. So, it’s been an equal-opportunity downturn after all …

‘Do You Mind if I Bring My Mom to the Interview?’

Admittedly, this latest survey from OfficeTeam doesn’t come with many numbers — I was hard-pressed to find any, in fact — and we’ve certainly written about “helicopter parents” crowding in on their millennials’ job searches and careers, but some of what the respondents recounted were worth sharing.

One parent wanted to sit in during the interview. Another called a politician to push a hiring executive to hire his son. One mother submitted her daughter’s resume on her behalf. Another called to ask how her child did in the job interview. And my favorite: “A parent came by my desk and told me that he expected his daughter to get preference for a position since he was a manager at the company.”

More proof that a whole lot of my baby booming cohorts just don’t get it — you know, that parenting tip about letting children grow up.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm collected these and other anecdotes from more than 1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada. OfficeTeam Executive Director Robert Hosking says parents mean well, but “those who become overly involved in a child’s job search can derail their son’s or daughter’s prospects of being hired because companies may question the applicant’s level of independence and maturity.”

Take it from one who knows, it’s damn hard to let go and let them sink or swim. Each one of my sons, 30 and 26, has had to tell their mom to “cool it” once or twice. But at least that was after I asked their permission to get involved.

For those worst-offending helicopter parents, and I hope for your sake you know who you are, maybe you can make asking permission your first step toward recovery.