Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

In 2005, 37.7 percent of all S&E doctorate degrees went to women. Women were awarded almost 50 percent of Ph.D.s granted in the biological sciences (National Science Foundation, 2006).


Despite these encouraging numbers, the number and percentage of women faculty had yet to match these gains. While noticeably increasing throughout S&E disciplines, women continued to be underrepresented among academic faculty relative to the number of women receiving S&E degrees (Nelson and Rogers, 2005). As Table 2-1 shows, in 2003, women comprised between 6 and 29 percent of senior faculty (full and associate professors) in S&E. The largest percentage of full and associate professors was found in the life sciences, while the lowest was in engineering.

Women were more likely to be assistant professors, and as shown in Table 2-2, comprised between 18 and 45 percent of assistant professors in S&E.10 Again, the largest percentage of female faculty was in the life sciences, and the lowest was in engineering.

These aggregate proportions masked two noteworthy phenomena. First, some departments had greater success in recruiting, retaining, and advancing female faculty than others. Examinations of specific department rosters continued to turn up examples of departments with no female faculty (e.g., Ivie et al., 2003; Nelson and Rogers, 2005).11 Second, some types of higher education institutions had done better at recruiting, retaining, and advancing female faculty than others. Female science faculty were more likely to be employed by community colleges or institutions that did not offer a doctoral degree, rather than at the large research universities (Nettles et al., 2000; Schneider, 2000). For example, in mathematics in 2005, the percentage of female, full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty at doctorate-granting institutions was 11 percent; at master’s-granting institutions it was 24 percent; and at bachelor’s-granting institutions it was 25 percent (Kirkman et al., 2006).


Other studies come to similar conclusions. For example, women comprised only 14 percent of all faculty in astronomy in 2003 (Ivie, 2004) and 13 percent of all faculty in physics in 2006 (Dresselhaus, 2007). In mathematics in 2005, only 11 percent of full-time, tenure-track or tenured faculty in doctoral departments were women, while 24 percent of non-tenure-track, full-time faculty were women (Kirkman et al., 2006). In engineering, only 11.3 percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty members were women in 2006 (Gibbons, 2007). It should be noted, though, that over time, these percentages are slowly rising.


In 2006, all of the top 50 chemistry departments had at least one woman on faculty (Marasco, 2006). Continuing the examination of chemistry, for 30 Research I institutions that hired at least five faculty during 1988 and 1997, the percentage of women among hires ranged from 50 percent in one case to zero percent in 8 cases. Some departments hired a greater proportion of women than might be expected in comparison to the proportion of women in the doctoral pool, though in most cases, the proportion of women hired was lower (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2007).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement