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TABLE 3-1. Career Choices of Men and Women in the U.K. Chemical Sciences Graduate Programs (in percentage)

  Men Women
  1st Year 3rd Year 1st Year 3rd Year
Planning career in chemistry 73 86 85 79
Planning research in chemistry 61 59 72 37
Planning academic career 44 36 51 33

SOURCE: Royal Society of Chemistry. 2008. Change of Heart: Career Intentions and the Chemistry Ph.D. London, U.K.: Royal Society of Chemistry.

To understand these trends qualitatively, Lichter quoted a U.K. female graduate student about her sense of isolation and concern about a lack of appreciation in the field. He indicated that these themes are common in the United States as well. The fundamental issue is one of perceptions about possible career choices which are embedded within an environment that is often not seen as welcoming to women.

The largest drop, from 72 to 37 percent, was observed for women planning research careers (in chemistry), while the drop for men was only 61 to 59 percent.

-Robert Lichter

Finally, Lichter highlighted the lack of disaggregated international data. In many instances, chemistry is not explicitly considered its own field but included more generally with other physical sciences, possibly due to varying definitions of chemistry across sectors and countries. Frequently data are unavailable, particularly from nonacademic sectors, especially industry. Also, data on program outcomes are sparse; in Germany, for example, there are many industrial sector programs between employers and unions that are intended to promote women in chemistry. At the time of the workshop, Lichter and his colleagues had been unable to obtain information on outcomes of these initiatives, which prompted Lichter and his coauthors to expand their data collection efforts to other countries, examining cross-national similarities and differences within chemical sciences compared to other disciplines.

3.2 Computer Science2

Joanne Cohoon
University of Virginia

Cohoon presented data on entry-level degrees (bachelor’s degrees) and workforce trends in a few selected countries to address the question: How similar or different is women’s representation in computer science from one country or culture to another? Cohoon presented Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data from 33 countries on the percentage of women who earned bachelor’s level degrees in computer science in 2008, as shown in Figure 3-1. Women were underrepresented in computer science at the bachelor’s level in 33 countries, although the data showed tremendous variation among countries. Slovenia


2 See Appendix E-6 for the full paper.

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