A commonly heard gender-based explanation offered to account for differences between the proportion of women in the Ph.D. pool and the proportion among applicants for Research I positions is that many women S&E doctorates may not be interested in academic positions at Research I institutions. It is the case, as noted in Chapter 2, that many women Ph.D.s were employed outside academia, and within academia, many women were employed at institutions other than Research I institutions. This was not unexpected since the 89 Research I institutions make up only a small part of higher education institutions.
Fox and Stephan (2001) examined the preferences of 3,800 doctoral students in chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, microbiology, and physics. Overall, 36 percent of students had a preference for academic research, compared with 19 percent, who indicated a preference for academic teaching. In every case, the proportion of women preferring academic teaching was greater than that of men. Men strongly preferred academic research in chemistry, microbiology, and computer science, more than women did.
Sears (2003) conducted a survey of 1,105 graduate students from 24 math and science programs at the University of California at Davis, with a focus on comparing students’ initial career goals when they began graduate school with their current career goals. A crucial finding was “more men than women began graduate school with plans to work in research universities (84% of men, 71% of women), and during graduate school, more women than men abandoned this goal” (p. 172). Additionally, men, more than women respondents, were attracted to research universities. Bleak et al. (2000), in a survey of recently hired faculty, found men were more likely to apply to research universities than women. Data collected by the American Chemical Society also suggested women were choosing 4-year institutions over research universities (Brennan, 1996).
Why might women be less interested in positions in research universities? In general, women graduates may perceive the climate to be less welcoming, perhaps based on their perceptions of how they were treated in graduate school and their perceptions of how female faculty were treated. There was evidence that female graduate students may perceive the social or cultural context of doctoral education in S&E differently than male graduate students do. In a survey of 3,300 students in chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, and physics, conducted during 1993 to 1994, Fox (2001a) found:
“Women are less likely than men to report that they are taken seriously by faculty and that they are respected by faculty” (p. 658).
“In research groups, compared to men, women report that they are less comfortable speaking in group meetings” (p. 659).
“Women report collaborating with fewer men graduate students and men faculty members in research and publications during the three preceding years” (p. 659).