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Athena Continues Driving the National Dialogue on Gender Equity Through Data

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

Athena is once again holding a mirror to the marketplace regarding gender equality by unveiling its Women in STEM Workforce Index 2020. Analyzing the most recent publicly available data, The UC San Diego Extension Center for Research and Evaluation used the U.S. Census data and other sources to capture the state of professional women leading in STEM for Athena’s biennial thought-leadership benchmarking report.

Women Make Notable Gains in Local STEM Workforce

There are notable gains in female representation across the STEM workforce since Athena’s 2018 Index. In key areas, San Diego County – the nation’s third largest biotech hub and fifth for the number of tech jobs – is leading the way in positive trends that promote professional women in STEM:

  • For the first time in history, women now hold an equal 50% share of the life sciences jobs in San Diego County.

  • Women’s share of engineering jobs increased by 5%, after remaining flat for 30 years. 

  • San Diego County added women to the local STEM workforce at a faster rate than the national average.

  • San Diego narrowed the gender pay gap from 33% in 2015 to 18% in 2018; 5% below the national average.

While progress is occurring, troubling trends still persist both nationally and locally:

  • There are more women than ever represented in the national STEM workforce, however, their share remains at a paltry 1 in 4 STEM jobs.

  • Womenʼs share of jobs in the largest STEM category—Computers and Math— decreased from 44% in 1990 to 27% in 2018, and women hold the fewest share of STEM jobs inside the engineering field, at 16%.

  • San Diego witnessed a steep drop in the share of STEM Management positions held by women in recent years with 14% locally compared to 26% nationally.

“As a global STEM hub, we can do better,” Athena CEO Holly Smithson told the San Diego Business Journal. “To be globally competitive, we have to continue producing innovative products and services, which demands a diverse and modern workforce. We’ve got a ways to go.”

In response to Athena’s 2020 Index, The San Diego Business Journal interviewed several diversity leaders at global STEM companies to understand their workforce strategies and priorities in tackling these inequitable trends.

QUALCOMM | “From the very beginning, we have fostered extremely diverse groups of people ranging from engineers to non-engineers to all kinds of different races, nationalities and gender,” said Vicki Mealer-Burke, chief diversity officer of Qualcomm. She explains this is one of the areas Qualcomm is focusing on, across countries, through innovative hiring and retention best practices.


TRUVIAN | “About 46% of our talent is female and our executive leadership team is 50-50,” said Katherine Atkinson, chief commercial officer of Truvian. “Our hiring efforts are naturally diverse because our leadership, management and board are diverse. When you have diversity, it removes potential biases in the sourcing and screening process,” Atkinson said. “It reduces the probability of shortlisting those candidates. It’s been extremely helpful.”

Atkinson added she is proud to be at the forefront of progress at Truvian, noting that the company’s chair of the board is also female.

“We are helping lead the way and we’re excited to see the work that Athena is doing to help make a difference here.”


TERADATA |We offer a program called the “Women of Teradata” network within our global software teams,”  said Juanita Hendrickson, vice president of Human Resources at Teradata. “We also expanded our active participation globally for women, allies and advocates focused on growth and development.”

Hendrickson said Teradata partnered with Athena to provide its female employees with professional development training and resources, including leadership forums and expert panels.

“The thought leadership and programmatic work that Athena offers this community cannot be under-celebrated,” said Hendrickson. “They have been clear partners with us on this journey and strong partners helping advocate for women in the workforce. Obviously, we are not done, nobody should ever be done and we will continue learning and improving our female representation.”


Looking Forward

“It’s essential that both our region and country probe deeper on why women are so poorly represented inside STEM management. I’m particularly driven by a desire to “crack the code” within our STEM community to understand why, after producing the nation’s largest number of female STEM graduates out of UCSD, that it’s not translating into greater representation in our regional workforce,” said Smithson.

Looking at the horizon, Smithson is committed to driving transparency and accountability around gender equality as more companies discover the nexus between a modern and equitable workforce and a globally competitive company that reflects the diversity of its products, consumers, and shareholders.


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