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percent of assistant professors in S&E and between 6 and 29 percent of associate and full professors.4

The evidence for disparities in the treatment of women and men is mixed. In some cases (e.g., with regard to salaries), there are strong quantitative data. In other cases (e.g., marginalization), the evidence is more anecdotal. Still in other instances, the evidence is scant or missing. Assessing whether search committee members are biased in their evaluations of male and female candidates could be—and has been—done in essentially a laboratory-like setting, but there are no publicly available national data upon which to draw.


Interest in studying the disparities between the careers of male and female faculty is widespread. Government agencies, legislators, and organizations, including many professional societies, have a vested interest in promoting science and engineering education and careers and encouraging a diverse set of students and graduates to enter and remain in S&E. Administrators in the academic community need benchmarks to help set the context in which universities conduct their own self-examinations—as many already do. S&E students considering academia among their career options are seeking better information about career prospects and challenges.

Why is an assessment needed now? Three reasons support this.5 First, the nature of the academic profession is changing in several important ways, including the composition of the profession, reward structure, and professional activities. Due in part to the diminishing financial resources and increasing costs faced by higher education institutions, hiring into tenure-track positions has slowed, while the number of part-time, temporary, and off-track positions has increased. Such changes may affect female academics differently than male academics.

Second, substantial efforts to increase women’s participation as faculty in higher education have been underway for three decades. These include programs and policies of the federal government, professional societies, and their universities and individual academic departments. At the federal level, one example is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) ADVANCE program. Scientific and professional societies focused on women generally or in specific disciplines have collected relevant data and undertaken programs to support women in the profession (e.g., the Association for Women in Science [AWIS], the Society of Women Engineers [SWE], the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics [CSWP], and the Caucus for Women in Statistics). Higher education institutions have conducted


See Tables 2-1 and 2-2.


See also the four reasons suggested by NAS, NAE, and IOM (2007): global competitiveness, law, economics, and ethics.

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