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Professional organizations in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) can use demographic data to quantify recruitment and retention (R&R) of underrepresented groups within their memberships. However, variation in the types of demographic data collected can influence the targeting and perceived impacts of R&R efforts - e.g., giving false signals of R&R for some groups. We obtained demographic surveys from 73 U.S.-affiliated STEM organizations, collectively representing 712,000 members and conference-attendees. We found large differences in the demographic categories surveyed (e.g., disability status, sexual orientation) and the available response options. These discrepancies indicate a lack of consensus regarding the demographic groups that should be recognized and, for groups that are omitted from surveys, an inability of organizations to prioritize and evaluate R&R initiatives. Aligning inclusive demographic surveys across organizations can provide baseline data that can be used to target and evaluate R&R initiatives to better serve underrepresented groups throughout STEM.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Science, volume 376, issue 6588, in 2022 following peer review. This article may not exactly replicate the final published version. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

science.abo1599_data_s1.csv (26 kB)
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