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Illinois Second Only to California in Number of Computer Science Degrees Awarded

Despite the boom in STEM grads, race and gender diversity remains weak, according to the Illinois Innovation Index.

by Ally Marotti, Chicago Tribune / December 13, 2018
Blue-shirted employees at Google's grand opening in Chicago's West Loop, Dec. 3, 2015. A new report finds that Illinois is cranking out science and technology workers, but diversity and inclusion are still weak points. (Chicago Tribune/ Phil Velasquez/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — Illinois is cranking out science and technology workers, but diversity and inclusion in the fields are still lacking.

That’s according to the Illinois Innovation Index, released Wednesday by the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition. The index, which examines the state’s STEM workforce between 2013 and 2017, includes careers in science, technology, engineering and math as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and uses degree-completion data from the National Center for Education Statistics. It does not include health care fields.

Illinois ranks fifth nationally in the number of STEM degrees awarded and has the fifth-largest STEM workforce in the country.

Still, “we have a long way to go to (be) more inclusive in tech,” said Mark Harris, president and CEO of the coalition.

Here are four takeaways from the index.

Illinois’ workforce is growing quickly

More than 5 percent of jobs in the state are in STEM fields, and Illinois’ workforce in those fields is growing at a quicker pace than the national average, according to the index. STEM employment in the state has risen 2.7 percent annually for the past five years.

The average wage for people working in the fields in Illinois is more than $79,800, which is roughly $2,000 higher than the national average.

Computer science reigns

One out of 10 computer science degrees in the nation comes from Illinois colleges and universities, according to the index. California is the only state that churns out more.

The number of computer science graduates has been growing nationally, but Illinois’ annual growth of 21.5 percent outpaces the national average of 19.8 percent.

Data science also is growing in prominence as a profession, with increasing numbers of degrees and jobs in data science-related fields, the index found.

Graduates are staying

Leaders in Chicago’s tech world often fret over a pipeline that leaks talent to the tech-heavy coasts. However, a new analysis from LinkedIn cited in the index found that since 2013, Illinois computer science graduates are 4.5 times more likely to work in Chicago than San Francisco, the second most common destination.

Champaign-Urbana was the fourth most likely place for those graduates to end up.

The recent graduates who stayed in Illinois are largely employed by out-of-state tech behemoths, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.

Tech fields still lack diversity

Race and gender diversity remains a weak point, in Illinois and nationally, the index found. However, there have been some improvements.

In 2017, 64 percent of domestic STEM graduates in Illinois were white, but the share of Asian and Hispanic graduates were up more than 2 and 3 percentage points, respectively, from 2013. However, the share of African-American graduates fell during that time, from 6.5 to 5.4 percent.

The numbers don’t improve much in the professional world. African-Americans, who are 9.9 percent of Illinois’ workforce, make up just 4.9 percent of the STEM field. Hispanics, meanwhile, make up 11.1 percent of Illinois’ workforce but only 5.2 percent of STEM workers.

Though more women have received science and technology degrees in Illinois over the last five years, so have more men, meaning the proportion of degrees earned by women actually fell, from 35.9 percent in 2013 to 34.8 percent in 2017.

There is a bright spot, however. The number of women earning computer science degrees in Illinois each year more than tripled, from 267 to 857, during that time.


©2018 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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