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  1. Six disciplines are examined: biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics.

  2. Institutions are limited to major research universities, referred to as Research I or research-intensive (RI) institutions.

  3. Only full-time, regularly appointed professorial faculty who are either tenure eligible or tenured are included.

In other words, except in its review of historical data and existing research, the report does not examine gender differences outside of the six disciplines covered in the surveys or at institutions other than RI institutions. It also does not examine the careers of instructors, lecturers, postdocs, adjunct faculty, clinical faculty, or research faculty, who may experience very different career paths.

Many of the “whys” of the findings included here are buried in factors that the committee was unable to explore. We do not know, for example, what happens to the significant percentage of female Ph.D.s in science and engineering who do not apply for regular faculty positions at RI institutions, or what happens to women faculty members who are hired and subsequently leave the university. And we know little about female full professors and what gender differences might exist at this stage of their careers.

We do know that there are many unexplored factors that play a significant role in women’s academic careers, including the constraints of dual careers; access to quality child care; individuals’ perceptions regarding professional recognition and career satisfaction; and other quality-of-life issues. In particular, the report does not explore the impact of children and family obligations (including elder care) or the duration of postdoctoral positions on women’s willingness to pursue faculty positions in RI institutions.


This report does not exist in isolation. The committee has benefited greatly from three other National Academies’ reports on women in academic science and engineering. In 2001 the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) published From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers, a statistical analysis of the career progression of matched cohorts of men and women Ph.D.s from 1973 to 1995. The 2005 CWSE report, To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in U.S. Science and Engineering, identifies the strategies that higher education institutions have employed to achieve gender inclusiveness, based on case studies of four successful universities.

A third report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, was released in 2006 under the aegis of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP). The study committee was charged to “review and assess the research on sex and gender issues

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