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Women, Minorities Rare on Science, Engineering Faculties

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by Black Issues


Women, Minorities Rare on Science, Engineering Faculties

WASHINGTON
Several decades after the passage of Title IX, the law that promises equal opportunity for women in all aspects of federally funded education programs, women are still severely underrepresented on science, technology, engineering and mathematics faculties and exist primarily at the lowest professorial ranking, according to a report released last month.
The first national analysis of the composition of the top 50 faculties by discipline shows that women are rare in tenured and tenure-track positions and minority women are all but invisible. The data show only a few African American women in science and engineering departments and no Black or Hispanic tenured or tenure-track professors in computer science.
“It is not unusual for a student to receive a bachelor of science degree without being taught by a female professor or to earn a Ph.D. without having access to a woman faculty member in the field,” said Dr. Donna J. Nelson, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma and co-author of the report. “This sends a clear message to students that women are not welcome in math, science and engineering.”
Although the absence of women in science, engineering and mathematics has long been recognized, never before have university faculties been so exhaustively examined. Previous studies by institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University have focused largely on university-specific information.
These findings come only one year after Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the U.S. Department of Education to account for the low number of women in faculty positions in response to a petition signed by hundreds of scientists, mathematicians, engineers, educators and clinicians nationwide.
Other findings include:
• There are few female full professors in science and engineering; the percentage of women among full professors ranges from 3 percent to 15 percent. In all but one discipline surveyed, the highest percentage of female faculty is at the level of assistant professor.
• In most science disciplines studied, the percentage of women among recent Ph.D. recipients is much higher than their percentage among assistant professors, the typical rank of recently hired faculty. Even in disciplines where women outnumber men earning Ph.D.s, the percentage of assistant professors who are White male is greater than females.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) called on universities to become more accountable, asking them to carefully track and make public diversity statistics.
“The ‘good ole boy’ network is alive and well in academia,” said Kim Gandy, NOW President. “As we begin a century where scientific and technological gains are more critical than ever, we cannot afford to lose another generation of bright, talented and well-educated women and people of color.”
Jacqueline Woods, executive director of the American Association of University Women stressed that “the findings of the report underscore the need for expanded support systems for women and girls in science and engineering, especially those from underrepresented groups. The AAUW Educational Foundation provides graduate fellowships to support women in science and engineering, as well as many other fields.”
“A National Analysis of Diversity in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities,” co-written by Nelson and Diana C. Rogers of the University of Oklahoma, is available at <www.now.org/issues/diverse/      diversity_report.pdf>.  

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