Madeline Johnson comes from a family of scientists. Her father studied aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her brother has a Ph.D. in particle physics. But Johnson, a 2014 graduate from Skidmore College, studied ceramics. “I am the only artistic person in my entire extended family,” Johnson says. “That’s what made me happy.”
Despite her arts education, Johnson works as an executive assistant at a finance firm in Boston. After a stint at a local bakery, then quitting to devote her time to ceramics, she needed a job to meet the high cost of living in the city, she says.
Meanwhile, Bess Chan, who graduated from Boston University in the same year as Johnson, studied computer science. As a senior, she applied for a software engineer position at Apple and aced the interviews. Now in her third year with the company, she has found herself in an uncommon position: Apple’s global workforce is 68 percent male.
In the U.S., women make up close to 50 percent of the workforce but hold less than 25 percent of jobs in “STEM” professions—science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s a gap the country has long been on a campaign to fix, with government initiatives, privately funded diversity programs (including Apple’s), colleges that offer special STEM support for women, and other incentives. But now, Donald Trump has thrown women-in-STEM advocates for a loop. Last month, his budget blueprint proposed significant cuts in funding for science and health agencies, draining resources for researchers. For women in science, who receive less funding than their male counterparts, such cuts could be especially crippling.