How many military spouses and dependents are in STEM, anyway?
The Society of Military Spouses in STEM (SMSS) is a beacon bringing together STEM professionals and students in the military community. However, the actual number of military spouses and dependents in STEM is unknown.
Photographer — Bob Jagendorf, (License: CC BY-SA 3.0)
In May 2018, Joanna Gerken and Michelle Aikman dove into the data on military spouses in STEM during a conversation on the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Diversity podcast. Joanna Gerken was the FY18 President of the Society of Women Engineers and Michelle Aikman is SMSS co-founder and Director of Outreach.
Aikman gave us some ballpark estimates, just so we can get our heads around potentially how many people we’re talking about:
- About 1% of our population is currently serving. About 10% are veterans. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division
- 2.7 million people are military family members and 2.1 million people are service members. In other words, when you look at the military community, you find that about 56% are family members and 44% are service members. Source: Department of Defense (DoD), Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy (ODASD (MC&FP))
- 1 million people in the military community are spouses who are married to service members on Active Duty or in the Guard or Reserves. Source: Department of Defense (DoD), Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy (ODASD (MC&FP))
- 6.65% of the U.S. population are STEM professionals. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017 STEM Employment Data
Out of 1 million spouses, it is unknown how many are STEM professionals. What SMSS has done as an organization is looked at how many professionals in our society are interested or involved in STEM. BLS says that about 6.65% of the population are STEM professionals. If you apply that to the 1 million spouses, then we expect about 66,000 military spouses are involved or interested in STEM.
When you look at the military family as a whole, there are 2.7 million spouses, children and other dependents. Again, if you apply that 6.65%, we are talking about 180,000 individuals within the military community who are involved or interested in STEM professions.
Not only is SMSS looking at supporting spouses who could be and should be in STEM, but it is also looking at kids. We need to find ways to foster STEM for the kids in the military community so that they can grow up and consider STEM as a profession.
When you look at society as a whole, this is not a large percent of the population, but when you think about 66,000 military spouses, that’s a considerable amount. It’s enough that we should be paying attention and thinking about it because we all know that there is a huge talent gap in STEM professions. Our country and our world need individuals in STEM who have diverse prospectives and diverse backgrounds.
Our goal as an organization is to identify who is out there. Our first task is to find military spouses in STEM, gather them into the organization as members and start asking questions: What challenges are you facing? What can we do?