A New Way to Look at Gender Imbalance in Doctoral Degree Attainments

AIR_logo_fullA new report from the American Institutes for Research identifies Ph.D. disciplines with the most gender imbalance. But unlike other studies that simply compared the total number of degrees earned by men and women, this study looks at how many men and women earned doctoral degrees in a field compared to the number of men and women who earned bachelor’s degrees in that particular field.

The report found that men are most overrepresented in communication disorders, missionary studies, law, family and consumer sciences, and teacher education. Women are most overrepresented in forestry, Slavic languages, fine and studio arts, information science, and engineering.

Here is a passage from the report that explains the reasoning: “From 2010 to 2012, an average of 70 women and 71 men per year received doctoral degrees in animal sciences. On the surface, this might lead us to conclude that there is virtually no gender imbalance in doctoral degree production in animal sciences. Yet these figures do not account for the available pool of men and women who could enroll in and receive doctoral degrees in this academic field. An average of 1,003 men and 2,398 women received a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences. Thus, even though the absolute number of doctorates awarded to men and women is similar, men are significantly overrepresented among doctoral degree recipients relative to the available pool of candidates.”

In a conclusion that may come as a surprise to many readers, the report finds that women are overrepresented in computer engineering. According to the study, “even though more men than women received a doctoral degree in computer engineering, women are overrepresented relative to what would be expected from the pool of undergraduates who demonstrated interest in the academic field” by earning bachelor’s degrees in that discipline.

The report, Exploring Gender Imbalance Among STEM Doctoral Degree Recipients, many be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Degree AttainmentsResearch/StudySTEM Fields

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