are essentially at parity. Fifty percent of the bachelor’s degrees in those fields currently are being awarded to women. In the physical sciences women’s participation is lagging, but has more than doubled in the 25-year period. Nineteen percent of bachelor’s degrees in physics are awarded to women as are 18 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees.
There has been a steady increase in the number of women completing Ph.D.s in all of the sciences. In biological sciences, women now earn over 40 percent of doctorates, and in chemistry a remarkable 33 percent of doctorates are awarded to women; that is a three-fold increase in 25 years. In the physical sciences, 12 percent of doctoral degrees are awarded to women and in engineering there has been a five-fold increase, from an unbelievable 2 percent in 1975 up to 11 percent in 2001.
In addition, women are entering the faculty in increasing numbers. The number of women in science faculty has been increasing at every rank. However, one of the chronic problems in women’s distribution across ranks in academia is that women are most dominant in the instructor/lecturer position. At most institutions these tend to be non-tenure track positions with the least job security. Some of the differences between assistant, associate, and full professors can be explained by pipeline issues. Although the pipeline is increasingly becoming a problematic excuse for the small number of women in the full professor ranks and cannot be used as excuse anymore. There is clearly leakage as one moves up the professional ranks to full professor.
One could celebrate these numbers. One could say that these numbers are telling us that it is simply a matter of time. That if we gather together in another 10 years, we will see further progress and eventually women will be full and equal participants in science, engineering, and mathematics. That we are on a good track; let us just keep going. That there need not be any additional attention paid to this issue; this is a time-dependent phenomenon.
This argument cannot be supported. In fact, there are a number of indicators that suggest that unless we continue to focus on this issue we are at risk not of just stalling out, but of actually falling back. Here are some of the indicators that give me pause.
In 1999, women full professors were concentrated in non-research intensive academic institutions. In 2-year institutions (these are community and junior colleges), 42 percent of full professors were women. In liberal arts colleges (these are colleges without a graduate school), 23 percent of full professors were women. In the research-intensive university, 17 percent of full professors were women. Women Ph.D.s are not distributed evenly across different kinds of academic institutions; rather, they