A Sharp Drop in Tenure-Track Appointments for Women Oceanographers

LuAnne Thompson, a professor of oceanography at the University of Washington, reports some alarming statistics on the percentage of women who earn doctorates in oceanography who go on to earn tenure-track faculty positions at leading research universities. Professor Thompson presents evidence that in the early years of this century an average of 30 percent of all doctorates awarded in the field of physical oceanography were earned by women. (The National Science Foundation reports that in 2008, 34 of the 84 doctorates awarded in all fields of oceanography in the United States went to women.)

However, Professor Thompson’s research shows that from 1980 to 2009, 28 percent of the men who earned a Ph.D. in oceanography obtained a tenure-track position. For women with oceanography doctorates, 23 percent were able to gain appointments to tenure-track positions in the period prior to 1995. But since then, only 8 percent of women earning a Ph.D. in oceanography were hired to tenure-track faculty posts.

Professor Thompson told WIAReport that research has shown that in “science fields that have made the transition from few to no women faculty to having a significant representation (say 15% to 20%) of women faculty, it appears it may be more difficult for women to gain additional faculty positions.”

Professor Thompson is a graduate of the University of California, Davis. She earned a master’s degree at Harvard University and a Ph.D. at MIT.

Filed Under: FacultyGender GapResearch/Study


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