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From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers
which we consider in Chapter 6. The few studies that give greater attention to scientists and engineers in other sectors, such as Kornhauser (1962), Marcson (1960), and Pelz and Andrews (1966), often focus on the conflicts between science as a profession and the contrasting goals of nonacademic employers. There are only a few studies considering factors that affect sector in which a scientist works (Long and McGinnis 1981; Reskin 1979). Yet, sector of employment is a fundamental dimension of the scientific career that affects work experience, opportunities, employment security, and prestige.
In the current climate of science, it is extremely important to consider scientists in nonacademic sectors since the kinds of jobs held by scientists and engineers are changing (Kuh 1996; Tobias, Chubin, and Aylesworth 1995). The foremost indicator of this change is the transition from a primarily academic S&E workforce to one that is more evenly divided between higher education and industry. Changes within academia that have limited the number of jobs occurred simultaneously with the growing presence of women in the academic labor market. The employment shift from education to industry is the result of several economic and political transformations since 1970. While the number of doctoral scientists and engineers in the labor force has continued to grow, the quality of employment deteriorated for those obtaining academic jobs. Between 1976 and 1986, real wages of faculty declined by 4 percent (Touchton and Davis 1991). Compared to other professions requiring postgraduate education in the 1980s, academic salaries fell behind (Magner 1996a). Hackett (1990) and others report growth in the number of off-track positions (e.g., part-time, non-tenure track, postdoctoral positions) in response to reduced opportunities for tenure-track jobs. Academic researchers found it increasingly difficult to secure adequate federal research support while academic employers increased pressure on faculty to obtain externally funded grants (Hackett 1990). During the same period, industry surpassed the federal government as the largest source of research and development (R&D) funding (NSB 1993). Even while corporate downsizing and the defense conversion to civilian R&D displaced science and engineering workers and contributed to their higher unemployment rates, the overall demand in industry for scientists has increased since 1973, as documented below.
This chapter begins by examining differences in the distribution of men and women into the largest sectors of employment: academia, industry, government, and private nonprofit organizations. It is also important to understand the type of employment within sectors. Since the rewards, prestige, and meaning of work activities differ across sectors, we then consider gender differences in work activities within each sector.