A breakdown and comparison of science and engineering degrees awarded from 1967-2006, characterized by males and females.
The gender gap seems to be closing in regard to college graduates with science and engineering degrees. More females are graduating with bachelor’s degrees than their male counterparts, but they aren’t taking the lead in pursuing graduate degrees.
In 1967, only 25.4% of all college graduates with a science or engineering degree were women. By 2002, 50.8% of undergraduate degrees were awarded to women in these fields. This marked the all-time high for women scientists and engineers in this country. 239,273 women were awarded undergraduates degrees compared to 234, 260 men.
However, women are not keeping pace with men who earn master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. In 2006, 44.9% of earned master’s degrees went to women. 54,075 women earned master’s degrees in comparison to 66,262 men. This number is still significantly higher than women who graduated with master’s degrees in 1967, when women comprised only 14% of master’s level graduates in these fields. That year, 38,682 men earned master’s degrees compared to 6,306 women.
A smaller percentage of women than men are graduating with doctoral degrees in engineering and science. 54,075 women earned doctorates compared to 66,262 men. These results are still impressive when compared to 1967 numbers. In 2006, 38.5% of all doctoral recipients were women; in 1967, 8.4%–only 1,096—graduates in science and engineering were awarded PhDs.
According to the National Academies Press, “women are only two-thirds as likely as men to go into science and engineering.” These fields tend to attract fewer women because they view the teaching methods as impersonal and uncaring. Women often feel left out of intellectual discussions and often experience sexual harassment. These may be among some of the reasons why women do not pursue graduate and post-graduate degrees at a higher rate.
In 1986, the unemployment rate for females in these fields was twice the rate of men. Today, female scientists and engineers are earning less than men at about two-thirds the average salary of their male counterparts. Furthermore, fewer women than men are employed at managerial levels in science and engineering.
Underrepresentation of women in graduate and post-graduate degree programs and ways to attract more women to these programs are worth investigating. Many experts believe that more programs need to be developed to support women in science and engineering programs and remove obstacles that prevent them from pursuing graduate and post-graduate degrees in these fields.