Study Finds a Gender Gap in the Most Prestigious Doctoral Programs

A new study led by Kim Weeden. a sociologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, examines gender differences in doctoral fields and the prestige of the doctoral programs from which women received their degrees.

The data shows that women make up just under half of all doctorates in research fields but there are large gender gap in many specific fields. Also, the data showed that the share of doctoral degrees earned from the most prestigious programs is higher for men than for women.

The authors present several ideas of why this prestige gap exists. They note than men’s average scores on the Graduate Record Examination are higher than the average score of women. Also, the most prestigious programs tend to have less faculty diversity than less prestigious programs. Thus, women may be inclined to seek out doctoral programs where they would have access to more women mentors. The authors also hypothesized that “fewer women may be applying to elite schools, because they self-assess their own abilities more harshly than men do.”

Dr. Weeden is the Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor of the Social Sciences, director of the Center for the Study of Inequality, and chair of the department of sociology at Cornell University. She joined the faculty at the university in 2001. Professor Weeden is a summa cum laude graduate of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University.

The study, “Degrees of Difference: Gender Segregation of U.S. Doctorates by Field and Program Prestige,” was published in the journal Sociological Science. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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