Stating the Obvious: Google Consumer Surveys finds more men than women in STEM

…and we’re back! Following my 2-month study-induced hiatus, I’m finally catching up with a bunch of posts I’ve wanted to write since the fall.

One of the upsides of working at Google is trying out cool new products. In particular, I weasled myself a coupon for Google Consumer Surveys, Google’s new shiny online platform for rapidly collecting user feedback. Google Consumer Surveys, in spite of its clunky name, is a surprisingly simple and elegant approach to data gathering that has the added bonus of potentially saving the publishing industry. Basically, people who want data can pay some money to site owners to pop up a one or two question survey for users to answer as an alternative for paying for content, like a magazine article. It’s also been praised by data-nerd guru Nate Silver as the second most accurate polling data source for the 2012 Presidential election.

The Question

Not being an expert pollster, I chose a pretty simple question: Have you ever considered a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field?

The Insights

The first insight Google finds is completely obvious: “Men picked Am currently working in STEM more than women.”


Glad I used a coupon. The data is pretty clear: at all levels of STEM involvement, the gender stereotypes are well preserved. Sigh.

The other insights were not nearly as obvious. For instance, “Among men, those aged 35-44 picked No, have never considered STEM more than those aged 65+.” In fact, among men the 65+ crowd were the most likely to have considered a STEM career at some point.

My guess is that this is sampling bias. Older people are less likely to be tech savvy, and those who are have probably had some level of involvement or, at the very least, some interest in the sciences.

Another digital divide is also apparent: (sub)urban vs. rural. Rural respondents were much less likely to be working in high tech, and among respondents who haven’t worked in STEM, rural respondents were the most likely to have aspired to work in STEM. The results are particularly pronounced for women.



The challenges of getting into technology as a person living in a rural community comes up in an upcoming tech lady profile. Personally, I know far fewer people from rural communities in technology than women. So again, Google’s results capture this well.

Overall, the results weren’t really insightful, mostly just validated previous understandings of the disparities in STEM. But this is more due to the boringness of my question. What I really need is a better understanding of what to ask to get more meaningful information.

Any suggestions for questions? I’m back and I’ve got time to mess around with some data.


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