U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Exhibit 2. The "Leaky Pipeline"


From the article Iris R. Wagstaff ; Gerald LaPorte, "The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Forensic Sciences," March 8, 2018.

The STEM sectors continue to face challenges in recruiting and sustaining individuals from diverse backgrounds. The "pipeline" metaphor refers to the accepted concept that to produce sufficient numbers of highly qualified STEM professionals for the workforce, there must be sufficient input of students starting in elementary school. Exhibit 2 illustrates the main segments of the STEM pipeline. They are:

  • K-12 education: Students are exposed to STEM concepts and engaged through formal and informal activities. They make the choice to pursue a STEM career.
  • Undergraduate education: Students major in a broad scientific discipline.
  • Graduate education: Students specialize in or master a specific field within STEM that involves training, conducting and publishing research, and workforce development.
  • Career: Students are successfully placed into STEM careers. This segment includes professional development, retention, and promotion.

There are many points along this pipeline where students exit for various reasons — a phenomenon generally known as the “leaky pipeline.”