Privileges confirmed for straight white men working in STEM

June 16, 2022

Contact: Jared Wadley, 734-834-7719, jwadley@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—A new study that considered multiple aspects including sexual identity and disabilities confirms a long-held belief: White, heterosexual men without disabilities are privileged in STEM careers.

The University of Michigan study of 25,300 professionals in science, technology, engineering and math shows that this segment experiences better treatment and rewards than members of 31 other categories by gender, race, LGBTQ+ status and disability status.

Straight, nondisabled white men experience more social inclusion, professional respect and career opportunities, and have higher salaries and persistence intentions, the research showed. Study author Erin Cech said these advantages act as premiums, meaning they cannot be attributed to things like education level, job commitment, family responsibilities and human capital.

Prior work about the various groups connected to STEM did not have sufficient sample sizes or adequate demographic measures to illustrate this in full, she said.

“Often, the research only focused on a single axis at a time—gender or race or sexual identity,” said Cech, U-M associate professor of sociology.

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