8
Conclusion and Recommendations1

SUMMARY

The last five chapters documented the truly remarkable changes that have occurred in the representation of women in science and engineering. In all aspects of the career, from the receipt of the Ph.D. to entry into the labor force to attaining the rank of full professor, women are an increasing presence, both in absolute number and as a proportion of all scientists and engineers. As positive and encouraging as these changes are, it is equally clear that substantial differences remain. Women as a group remain less well represented and less successful than men in every dimension of the career that we have examined. For example, women remain below 50 percent of new Ph.D.s, are proportionally less likely to enter the full-time scientific and engineering labor force, are less likely to hold more advanced positions in industry or academia, and receive lower salaries even after adjusting for differences in age, field, and type of work.

In seeking to understand why women are less well represented and less successful than men, we labored to avoid making judgments regarding the motivations of those determining the outcome of the scientific career, either of the scientist herself as she moves through the life course, or of the gatekeepers and institutions that control the careers of young

1  

The editor would like to acknowledge his helpful discussions with Edward J.Hackett regarding this chapter.



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From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers 8 Conclusion and Recommendations1 SUMMARY The last five chapters documented the truly remarkable changes that have occurred in the representation of women in science and engineering. In all aspects of the career, from the receipt of the Ph.D. to entry into the labor force to attaining the rank of full professor, women are an increasing presence, both in absolute number and as a proportion of all scientists and engineers. As positive and encouraging as these changes are, it is equally clear that substantial differences remain. Women as a group remain less well represented and less successful than men in every dimension of the career that we have examined. For example, women remain below 50 percent of new Ph.D.s, are proportionally less likely to enter the full-time scientific and engineering labor force, are less likely to hold more advanced positions in industry or academia, and receive lower salaries even after adjusting for differences in age, field, and type of work. In seeking to understand why women are less well represented and less successful than men, we labored to avoid making judgments regarding the motivations of those determining the outcome of the scientific career, either of the scientist herself as she moves through the life course, or of the gatekeepers and institutions that control the careers of young 1   The editor would like to acknowledge his helpful discussions with Edward J.Hackett regarding this chapter.

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From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers scientists. For example, given the lesser full-time employment of women, we do not say: “Women fail to pursue full-time employment,” since this implies an unrestricted choice by the young female scientists to not work. Nor, do we say: “Women are given fewer opportunities for full-time employment,” since the data we have do not provide information on whether opportunities to work exist. Instead, we say: “Women are less likely to attain full-time employment.” This reflects the outcome of a process that remains largely hidden in the large scale, quantitative data that we have presented in the report. Still, we believe that the Panel would be remiss if it did not bring to light some of the evidence for the inequitable treatment of women in science and engineering. This has been done through our citations of historical events and anecdotal accounts. Such information makes it painfully clear that some, and probably many, women faced obstacles that men did not. While stories of overt discrimination against women in science and engineering are increasingly rare and federal legislation has eliminated blatantly discriminatory policies for the treatment of women, we believe that despite the massive progress since 1973, the assertion by Harriet Zuckerman and Jonathan R.Cole in 1975 may still be, albeit to a lesser extent, an accurate characterization of the situation facing women in science (Zuckerman and Cole 1975): The principle of the triple penalty, as we have observed, asserts that women scientists are triply handicapped…first by having to overcome barriers to their entering science, second by the psychic consequences of perceived discrimination—limited aspirations—and third by actual discrimination in the allocation of opportunities and rewards. RECOMMENDATIONS The report does not lend itself to conventional recommendations. At least, it does not do so without a significant infusion of thinking that goes beyond the evidence we have provided. The report documents the persistence of inequalities that future programs and policies must address as they seek to improve further the situation for women in science and engineering. Our data highlight where changes have occurred, where parity is being approached, and where major differences remain. While each member of the Panel had ideas regarding the policies and programs that are necessary to maintain and enhance the presence of women in science and engineering, we must leave the issues of program and policy design to others, as the practical, political, and ethical issues are beyond the mandate of our Panel. Still, there are several points that we want to make. First, there is evidence that familial obligations affect women dif-

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From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers ferently than men and affect the transition from the Ph.D. to the full-time scientific and engineering labor force. For women the biological demands of childbirth often conflict with the timing of the ideal career. All employers of scientists and engineers would benefit by considering their policies to assist promising careers for employees with young families. Second, a key to the full integration of women in science and engineering is the increase in their numbers. To this end, efforts need to be continued to overcome the greater attrition of girls and young women on the path to the Ph.D. and entry into a scientific career. Future studies are needed of the effectiveness of programs to attract and retain girls and women in science and engineering. THE NEED FOR FUTURE RESEARCH While our report provides a great deal of new and useful information about the careers of men and women in S&E, our answers and analyses are incomplete. Indeed, it was a constant source of frustration to the study panel that in pursuing our mandate to provide a broad overview of the change and lack of change that has occurred since 1973 we could not pursue each topic in the detail that it deserved. There is much more that needs to be learned about the opportunities and obstacles faced by women in science and engineering. The panel hopes that other researchers will use our report as a starting point for further research. In closing, we suggest that the following topics are of particular importance: A set of key measures and benchmarks should be established for assessing the progress of women in science and engineering. An assessment of progress relative to these benchmarks should be made available shortly after each public release of the Survey of Earned Doctorates and the Survey of Doctoral Recipients. Detailed studies of several key issues in the scientific career are necessary for understanding key junctions in the career. Entry into the Ph.D.: What accounts for the lower entry of women into some fields? Given the progress made by those women already in science, a clear objective needs to be increasing the number of women entering science and engineering. To fully understand the entry of women into the Ph.D., studies are needed of admissions practices, especially among top institutions. The lower representation of women as undergraduates in Research I institutions also needs to be more fully understood. For those in graduate programs, further information is needed on graduate support and how career interruptions for women affect their options for support.

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From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers The transition from the Ph.D. to the full-time labor force is a critical point at which relatively, more women than men are lost. To understand this substantial loss of women who have completed their graduate education, requires an examination of postdoctoral fellowships and the effects of marriage and family. Our evidence clearly indicates that having young children is related to the entry of women into the full time labor force. Throughout the career, proportionally more women than men leave science and engineering entirely. More information is need on why these highly trained scientists are lost. Here also constraints imposed by familial obligations, career interruptions, and constraints on mobility need to be considered. To this end, the SDR should be revised to collect additional information particularly relevant to understanding the loss of a disproportionate number of women from the full time S&E labor force. Questions on reasons for part time employment should be expanded and new questions on reasons for not being in the labor force or working outside of S&E should be added. Finally, while women remain underrepresented, most minority groups are even less well represented. Detailed studies of the situation facing minorities are needed. Given the small numbers of minority scientists and engineers, these studies may require the collection of new data.