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What’s so special about stem? A comparison of women’s retention in STEM and professional occupations

We follow female college graduates in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and compare the trajectories of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related occupations to other professional occupations. Results show that women in STEM occupations are significantly more likely to leave their occupational field than professional women, especially early in their career, while few women in either group leave jobs to exit the labor force. Family factors cannot account for the differential loss of STEM workers compared to other professional workers. Few differences in job characteristics emerge either, so these cannot account for the disproportionate loss of STEM workers. What does emerge is that investments and job rewards that generally stimulate field commitment, such as advanced training and high job satisfaction, fail to build commitment among women in STEM.