Posted on June 22, 2022

The Intersectional Privilege of White Able-Bodied Heterosexual Men in STEM

Erin A. Cech, Science Advances, June 15, 2022


A foundational assumption of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) inequality research is that members of the most well represented demographic group—white able-bodied heterosexual men (WAHM)—are uniquely privileged in STEM. But is this really the case? Using survey data of U.S. STEM professionals (N = 25,324), this study examines whether WAHM experience better treatment and rewards in STEM compared with members of all 31 other intersectional gender, race, sexual identity, and disability status categories. Indicating systematic advantages accompanying WAHM status, WAHM experience more social inclusion, professional respect, and career opportunities, and have higher salaries and persistence intentions than STEM professionals in 31 other intersectional groups. Decomposition analyses illustrate that these advantages operate in part as premiums—benefits attached to WAHM status that cannot be attributed to variation in human capital, work effort, and other factors. These findings motivate research and policy efforts to move beyond a single axis paradigm to better understand and address intersectional (dis)advantages in STEM.