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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? 3 OVERVIEW: THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING Marsha Lakes Matyas Dr. Malyas currently serves as the director of the Women in Science Program in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her research fields include factors affecting science and engineering interests and participation rates among women and minorities at both the precollege and undergraduate levels. Her current projects include work with local youth-serving organizations to increase girls' extracurricular science and mathematics activities and the development and implementation of teacher materials and training programs for use in bilingual (English-Spanish) K-8 science classrooms. In order to set the stage for the five chapters of this report that focus on interventions in S&E education and employment, it is appropriate to look at the current statistics and research that define the problems that these interventions seek to resolve. Undergraduate Level In 1989, women earned 53 percent of the bachelor's degrees conferred in the United States. However, they earned only 39 percent of the bachelor's degrees conferred in science (excluding social sciences and psychology) and only 15 percent of the engineering bachelor's degrees awarded (see Figure 5-1, page 68). Within science, the percentage of degrees awarded to women varied by field. While women earned 46 percent of bachelor's degrees in mathematics and 45 percent of those in life sciences, they earned less than a third of the degrees awarded in physical science (31 percent, including chemistry), computer science (31 percent), and environmental science (25 percent) (National Science Board, 1991). These numbers should not be viewed as milestones on an upward
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? TABLE 3-1: Intended Majors of High-Achieving Black and White High-School Seniors, 1990, by Sex (in percent) White Black Intended Major Male Female Male Female Total S&E 56 37 55 36 Total science 27 29 21 22 Math/statistics 3 3 2 2 Computer science 4 1 6 3 Physical science 4 2 2 1 Life science 4 8 3 4 Earth/environmental science * * * * Psychology 1 5 * 5 Social science 4 7 3 5 Other 4 3 3 2 Total engineering 29 9 34 14 * < 1%. NOTE: Percentages for "total science" may not equal the sum of individual fields because of rounding. SOURCE: Adapted from National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators (10th Edition) (NSB 91-1), Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991, pp. 207–210. swing of science and engineering degrees awarded to women. Rather, the number of both U.S. citizen women and men earning degrees in science and engineering fields is on the decline. The number of degrees awarded to women in physical sciences peaked in 1987 at 4,837. Women's degrees peaked in environmental science in 1984, in life sciences in 1980, and in engineering in 1987. A number of factors contribute to the lower number of undergraduate degrees in science and engineering awarded to women. The major factors involved are summarized below, but this should not be considered a complete treatment of a complex set of variables and studies: Recent K-12 science and mathematics education reform efforts have
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? TABLE 3-2: Student Perceptions of Problems in Undergraduate Teaching Methods, by Sex (in percent) Men Women Impersonality 12 20 Professors don't care about you 0 30 Can't develop relationship with professors 25 10 Professors have no time for students 12 20 Large classes have negative effect on grades 25 0 Too competitive, and too fast a pace 13 10 No time for questions in class 0 10 Faculty don't know how to teach 13 0 SOURCE: Nancy M. Hewitt and Elaine Seymour, Factors Contributing to High Attrition Rates Among Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Undergraduate Majors, Boulder, CO: University of Colorado, 1991. increased the amount of science and mathematics that most students are required to take (Capper, 1988) and, consequently, female students are as likely to complete courses in Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry, Biology, Chemistry and Geology as are their male counterparts. However, young women are less likely to take the "final" courses that facilitate entry into science and engineering majors in college: physics and calculus (Nelson et al., 1992). Female students do not exhibit the same level of interest in science and engineering studies as do males (Table 3-1). Among 1990 high school seniors scoring above the 90th percentile on the mathematics portion of the SAT, women are only two-thirds as likely as men to go into science and engineering. Among those students who initially enroll in science and engineering, attrition has always been a problem, especially for women. According to a recent study of undergraduate students by Hewitt and Seymour (1991), women don't "switch" to other majors because they aren't prepared or don't make adequate grades. Rather, they often perceive the teaching methods used in undergraduate science, mathematics, and engineering courses as impersonal and uncaring (Table 3-2).
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? Hewitt and Seymour's study also describes the alienation of students in general and how many aspiring female scientists and engineers feel alienated from the mainstream S&E community. Among female undergraduate students interviewed, "nearly all complained about the daily irritation of dealing with open (or thinly veiled) sexist remarks from their male peers, and with the inner stresses of feeling unwelcome and pressured" (p. 98). Finally, gender differences in financial aid for students are consistently found. Although the National Science Foundation reports that half of both male and female students depend upon "relatives" and "savings" for financial support and 27 percent of male and female students have grants or scholarships, more female (52 percent) than male (47 percent) students express "some" concern about financing their education and female students are more likely to see financial aid as a major concern (NSF, 1990). Graduate and Postdoctoral Levels Since 1980, women have represented about one-third of graduate enrollment in science and engineering disciplines, although this varies by field (NSF, 1990). Women's graduate enrollment in S&E tends to be concentrated in one of three fields—social sciences, psychology, and life sciences—while men tend to be concentrated in engineering programs (see Figure 5-1, page 68). In 1986, women earned 31 percent of all master's degrees conferred and 33 percent of all master's degrees conferred in science (excluding social science and psychology), but only 11 percent of master's degrees awarded in engineering (NSF, 1990). The percentages of doctoral degrees awarded to women have increased significantly, particularly in certain S&E disciplines. For example, in 1950 only 4 percent of doctoral degrees in chemistry, 6 percent of those in mathematics, and 5 percent of those in physics were awarded to women. In 1990, those percentages were 24 percent, 18 percent, and 11 percent, respectively (Table 3-3). Women earning S&E doctoral degrees tend to be clustered in the life sciences. Some of the factors leading to women's underrepresentation among graduate degree recipients are similar to those for the undergraduate level. First, the transition between undergraduate and graduate school is critical, yet
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? TABLE 3-3: Doctoral Degrees Awarded to Women, by Field, 1990 Degrees to Women Field Total Degree Number Percent TOTAL, All Fields 36,027 13,061 36 Physical Science 5,859 1,068 18 Mathematics 892 158 18 Computer Science 704 110 16 Physics 1,392 149 11 Chemistry 2,102 502 24 Environmental Science 769 149 19 Engineering 4,892 414 8 Life Sciences 6,613 2,474 37 Biology 4,333 1,606 37 Health 960 595 62 Agriculture 1,320 273 28 Social Sciences 6,076 2,815 46 Psychology 3,267 1,906 58 Humanities 3,820 1,741 46 Language/Literature 1,308 746 57 Education 3,736 6,484 58 Professional/Other 813 2,283 36 SOURCE: Delores H. Thurgood and Joanne M. Weinmann, Summary Report 1990: Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1991. women do not make the transition as often as do men to earn master's degrees (NSF, 1990). For most S&E fields, the time required by women to earn a doctoral degree is no longer than the time required by men (NSF, 1990; see also Table 5-1, page 69). In physical science fields, women in doctoral programs are about as likely as men to receive financial support from the university and are only slightly more likely than their male peers to depend primarily on personal sources for support (Thurgood and Weinmann, 1991). However, in life sciences, 29 percent of women versus 20 percent of men depended primarily on personal sources of funds throughout their doctoral studies. Finally, the alienation that prevents full participation of
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? women at the undergraduate level is even stronger at the graduate level. Examples range from simply being "left out" of the intellectual process to disparaging remarks about women and blatant sexual harassment (Frazier-Kouassi et al., 1992). With the critical role played in the fife and future success of graduate students by the departmental faculty (in particular the major adviser), the impact of even minimal alienation can be tremendous. Employment The National Science Foundation (1990) cites five major areas of difference between male and female scientists and engineers in the United States: Numbers: Women are underrepresented in science and engineering compared to their participation in the U.S. work force (45 percent). In 1988 women comprised 16 percent of all scientists and engineers (30 percent of scientists; 4 percent of engineers). Unemployment: The unemployment rate for women scientists and engineers in 1986 (2.7 percent) was more than double that of their male peers (1.3 percent). It was, however, considerably lower than the unemployment rate for all U.S. women (7.1 percent). Underemployment: "Women scientists and engineers were three times as likely as men to report being underemployed in 1986:6.3 percent versus 1.9 percent." In this case, NSF defines an underemployed person as one seeking an S&E position (who currently has a non-S&E job) or seeking a full-time rather than their current part-time S&E job. Salaries: Women's yearly earnings are approximately three-fourths those of men's. "Their yearly earnings were also below those for men within individual S&E fields and—with few exceptions—at all levels of professional experience." Years of Experience: Due to the recent increase of women entering S&E fields, women "on average, are younger and have fewer years of professional experience than their male colleagues." Nearly two-thirds of women in science and engineering versus only a quarter of men had less than 10 years of professional experience in 1986. In addition to these general indicators of the status of women working in science and engineering, specific concerns can be detailed in each
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? of the major areas of their employment: academe, industry, and government. One concern common to all employment sectors is the existence of a "glass ceiling," defined by the U.S. Department of Labor (1991) as "those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organizations into management level positions." The Labor Department (1991) identified three such attitudinal and organizational barriers: Recruitment practices involving reliance on word-of-mouth and employee referral networking, the use of executive search and referral firms in which affirmative action/EEO requirements were not made known. Developmental practices and credential building experiences, including advanced education, as well as career enhancing assignments such as to corporate committees and task forces and special projects—which are traditional precursors to advancement—were often not as available to minorities and women. Accountability for Equal Employment Opportunity responsibilities did not reach to senior level executives and corporate decision makers. Academe Educational institutions are the leading employers of doctoral scientists and engineers in the United States (Vetter, 1989). In 1987 women comprised 17 percent of all doctoral scientists and engineers employed at educational institutions (Table 3-4). However, the percentage of women varies considerably by field from 2.4 percent in engineering to nearly 20 percent in the life sciences. Even higher percentages of women are found in psychology (31 percent) and the social sciences (30 percent). As noted by Garrison Sposito in Chapter 6, academic women scientists and engineers face significant barriers in the tenure process. Two-thirds of women on S&E faculties do not have tenure versus 40 percent of male faculty members (see figure 6-1, page 102). Furthermore, women progress up the academic ladder at a slower pace than do their male peers, even when matched for educational background, years of professional experience, and research productivity (CWSE, 1991; Brush, 1991). Industry Industrial employment and self-employment account for only 24
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? TABLE 3-4: Employed Women Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in Educational Institutions, by Field, 1989 Women Selected Fields Total Number Percent All fields 220,942 39,864 18.0 All Science* 195,981 39,185 20.0 Chemistry 15,074 1,861 12.3 Physics/Astronomy 13,825 640 4.6 Mathematics 11,614 1,116 9.6 Computer Science 6,349 689 10.9 Environmental Sciences 5,519 534 9.7 Biological Sciences 43,198 10,264 23.8 Engineering 24,961 679 2.7 * Includes social sciences and psychology. SOURCE: Betty M. Vetter, Professional Women and Minorities, Washington, DC: Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 1992, p. 131. percent of employed female doctoral scientists and engineers compared to 33 percent of men. As in academe, the percentage of women varies by field (Table 3-5), ranging from 2.5 percent in engineering to nearly 16 percent in life sciences. Data on industrial scientists and engineers at other degree levels are not generally available. According to the National Science Foundation (1990), one estimate of the career development of scientists and engineers is the degree to which they have management responsibility. This is especially useful for those in industrial and government positions. In 1986 women scientists and engineers, in general, were less likely than their mate counterparts to be primarily engaged in R&D management (see Figure 7-1, page 120). This difference was
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? TABLE 3-5: Employed Women Doctoral Scientists and Engineers in Industrial/Self-Employed Positions, 1989 Women Selected Fields Total Number Percent All Fields 145,148 19,485 12.1 All Science* 103,189 18,148 15.8 Chemistry 25,799 2,200 7.5 Physics 6,243 257 3.9 Mathematics 2,105 285 11.3 Computer Science 11,483 1,318 9.7 Environmental Sciences 6,266 437 5.3 Life Sciences 23,572 4,303 15.9 Engineering 41,959 1,337 2.5 * Includes social sciences and psychology. SOURCE: Unpublished data, 1989 Survey of Doctorate Recipients, National Science Foundation and National Research Council. greatest in physical science (60 percent of men versus 40 percent of women) and in aeronautical/astronautical engineering (68 percent of men versus 25 percent of women) (NSF, 1990). While some might attribute these differences to the aggregation of all individuals in a discipline, no matter their length of work experience, it is worth noting that in the other fields of science and engineering, in which aggregate numbers are also reported, differences in the proportion of men and women in R&D management are more slight: they range from a difference of I percent (psychology: 15 percent for women and 14 percent for men; electrical/electronics engineering: 48 Percent for women and 47 percent for men) to 9 percent (environmental science: 35 percent for men and 26 percent for women).
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? In terms of salary, women in industry earn similar or better starting salaries than men at the bachelor's level in chemistry and physics and at the bachelor's and master's degree levels in chemical engineering. At the Ph.D. level, however, men make higher starting salaries in chemical engineering and at most levels of experience in chemistry and physics (Babco, 1990). Federal Government The federal government employs over 200,000 scientists and engineers, primarily in eight major agencies and departments. Among doctoral scientists and engineers, the federal government is the third largest employer (29,710 employed in 1987) but the fourth largest employer of women (3,588), following educational institutions, industry, and hospitals/clinics (3,719). As Dix summarizes in Chapter 8, Across all degree levels, the employment of women scientists and engineers by the federal government varies by discipline, from a low of 3.0 percent in agronomy to 50.5 percent in sociology. But, in general, the rate of employment is much lower than that of men. Male scientists and engineers employed by federal agencies are more than twice as likely as females to be supervisors or managers (Table 3-6). Salaries of male and female scientists employed by government agencies differ by sex in certain fields and occupational categories. For instance, male scientists working in research and development for the government in 1987 earned $45,802, on average, compared to women's $41,249 (Vetter, 1989). Among government chemists, men earned higher salaries at every degree level, including the Ph.D. Some of the salary differences are attributed to the greater number of years' experience that men, in general, have in these fields. However, recent studies indicate that part of the difference is due to the ''glass ceiling' that can stymie the promotion of women beyond a certain GS level. Summary According to Alan Fechter, executive director of the National Research Council's Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel, ''It is not just a question of supply and demand but it is a matter of morals and ethics: it is not right in a society such as ours that women and underrepresented
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? TABLE 3-6: Management/Supervisory Status of Federal Scientists and Engineers, by Sex, 1987 Men Women Status Number Percentage Number Percentage Supervisor/manager 55,378 29.5 3,801 12.6 Nonmanagement/nonsupervisor 127,587 68.1 25,750 85.6 Status unknown 4,554 2.4 547 1.8 Total 187,519 100.0 30,098 100.0 SOURCE: Betty M. Vetter, Professional Women and Minorities, Washington, DC: Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 1989, p. 113. minorities do not play as strong a role as white men in the very important enterprise of science and technology." Understanding the problems that lead to the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering is a necessary first step in moving to alleviate that problem, but it is not sufficient. While we need to understand better the particular obstacles that prevent women from entering careers in science and engineering, we also need to continue, at the same time, to develop and implement programs that do something about removing those obstacles and increasing women's participation in science and engineering. There is no one unique formula for developing such programs. Furthermore, the development of new programs is made very difficult by current funding constraints at all levels of government and in the private sector. A clearinghouse that would collect and share information about programs that work is needed to facilitate the task of improving the participation of women. The development of the information base for such a clearinghouse was an underlying incentive for holding the National Research Council's Conference
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? on Science and Engineering Programs. The idea is to share information about the effectiveness of programs so that we can make the best use of the limited resources that are currently available to achieve the objective of increasing the participation of women in the S&E work force. The paucity of information that would enable us to distinguish programs that work from those that do not work provides the basis for seeking more and better evaluation efforts. REFERENCES Babco, Eleanor L. 1990. Salaries of Scientists, Engineers, and Technicians . Washington, DC: Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology. Brush, Stephen G. 1991. Women in science and engineering. American Scientist 79:404–19. Capper, J. 1988. State Educational Reforms in Mathematics, Science and Computers: A Review of the Literature. Washington, DC: Center for Research Into Practice. Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE). 1991. Women in Science and Engineering: Increasing Their Numbers in the 1990s . Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Frazier-Kouassi, Susan, Oksana Malanchuk, Patricia Shure, David Burkham, Patricia Gurin, Carol Hollinshead, Donald J. Lewis, Patricia Soellner-Younce, Homer Neal, and Cinda-Sue Davis. 1992. Women in Mathematics and Physics. Inhibitors and Enhancers. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan. Hewitt, Nancy M., and Elaine Seymour. 1991. Factors Contributing to High Attrition Rates Among Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Undergraduate Majors. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado. National Science Board. 1991. Science and Engineering Indicators (10th Edition) (NSB 91-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. National Science Foundation (NSF). 1990. Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering (NSF 90-301). Washington, DC: NSF. Nelson, Barbara H., Iris R. Weiss, and Larry E. Conaway. 1990. Science and Mathematics Education Briefing Book (Volume II). Chapel Hill, NC: Horizons Research, Inc.
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? Thurgood, Delores H., and Joanne M. Weinmann. 1991. Summary Report 1990. Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. U.S. Department of Labor. 1991. A Report on the Glass Ceiling Initiative . Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Vetter, Betty M. 1992. Professional Women and Minorities. Washington, DC: Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology. ____. 1989. Professional Women and Minorities. Washington, DC: Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology.
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Science and Engineering Programs: On Target for Women? Scholarship students supported by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME) participate in an undergraduate laboratory experience. (Photo: Steve Satori, Syracuse University)
Representative terms from entire chapter: