sex and race can further restrict career options.3 An analysis by the Education Trust4 found that 93 of every 100 white kindergartners would graduate from high school, 65 would complete some college, and 33 would obtain a bachelor’s degree. The corresponding numbers for black kindergartners were 87, 50, and 18, respectively. Of 100 Hispanic and Native American kindergartners, only 11 and 7, respectively, would earn a bachelor’s degree.

There is no linear path to a degree. The default ‘pipeline’ metaphor … is wholly inadequate to describe student behavior [which] moves in starts and stops, sideways, down one path to another and perhaps circling back. Liquids move in pipes; people don’t.

—Cliff Adelman, in The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion From High School Through College (2006)5

The question is where are differences in decision making manifested between men and women? The cohort of high school graduates who are now of an age to be assistant professors (assuming a direct educational path and no stop-outs) would have been seniors in the mid-1980s (Box 3-1 for a description of lagged cohort analysis). For this cohort, specific differences exist between the rates at which men and women chose and persevered in science and engineering education and careers.6 In 1982, high school senior girls were half as likely as boys to plan a science or engineering major in college. This difference was compounded by girls’ rate—2.4 times higher than that of boys—of attrition from the science and engineering educational trajectory during the transition from high school to college. During college, women and men showed similar perseverance to degrees in science and engineering fields. The other substantial difference in education and career attrition or perseverance between men and women in the cohort occurred during the transition from graduate school to tenure-track positions (Figure 1-2).


CSV Turner (2002). Women of color in academe: Living with multiple marginality. Journal of Higher Education 73(1):74-93.


Education Trust, Inc. (2002). The Condition of Education, 2002. Data were from surveys conducted by the US Department of Education and the US Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census, March Current Population Surveys, 1971-2001.


Available from the US Department of Education at


Y Xie and KA Shauman (2003). Women in Science: Career Processes and Outcomes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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