Immigrants, Women, and STEM

Immigrants, Women, and STEM

Immigrants play an increasingly important role in global STEM education and employment. The United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, is the number one destination of global STEM talent.

Most immigrants coming to the United States are highly skilled. From 1990-2010, immigrants with tertiary degrees rose 130 percent while low skilled immigrants increased only 40 percent. Among highly skilled immigrants, a significant number come to the United States with expertise in STEM. The most salient STEM hotspot in the U.S. depends on immigrants: “56 percent of STEM workers and 70 percent of software engineers in Silicon Valley in 2013 were foreign born.”

As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world.  — Satya Nadella, Microsoft

The mixture of immigrants and American born workers is a powerful catalyst for creativity and innovation in STEM fields, both in academia and business. And immigrant women play a crucial role in STEM innovation. They are the largest segment of highly-skilled immigrants, first outnumbering men in 2010. That same year 4.2 million female immigrants were employed in highly skilled professions, primarily in STEM.

Immigrant women joined the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC

The flow of female immigrants to the United States is primarily due to its perceived progressive policies toward women. Women want to work in a country that guarantees their safety, reproductive rights, and individual choices. Researchers are studying this trend in female immigration, noting “Evidence is accumulating that the differences between origin and destination countries in women’s rights underpin such flows.”

But President Trump’s recent executive order banning certain groups of people from the United States has rattled immigrants, U.S. colleges and universities, and business. Nike CEO Mark Parker explains how immigrants help, not harm, business. “Nike believes in a world where everyone celebrates the power of diversity,” he said in a statement. “Those values are being threatened by the recent executive order in the U.S. banning refugees, as well as visitors, from seven Muslim-majority countries.”

The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia — numbers two, three, and four among the top destinations for highly skilled immigrants — are taking note. They see an opportunity to attract immigrants to their countries. Immigrant students, including young women from Libya, Somalia, and Kurdistan (Iraq) have been traumatized by recent events. They have expressed uncertainty about their future in the United States, and are beginning to wonder whether to stay in the United States or transfer to a school in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.



Karen Collias

My name is Karen Collias and I founded Knowledge Without Borders™ to infuse creativity and innovation into the most salient educational issues affecting global contemporary society. I attribute my enthusiasm to cross the borders of traditional knowledge domains to the multi-disciplinary nature of my education and professional experience. The first in my family to go to college, I have a Ph.D. from Columbia University. My professional experience focuses on interdisciplinary research, teaching, and strategic thinking at a variety of institutions, including Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the U.S. Department of State. I currently am crossing borders to write about creativity and innovation in education and philanthropy.



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