The Wide Gender Gap in Doctoral Degree Awards in Specific Academic Disciplines

As we reported last week, the National Science Foundation recently released its annual data on research doctoral degree recipients in the United States. Data for the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates shows that universities in the United States conferred 52,250 research doctorates in 2021, down 5.5 percent from 2020. Of these, 24,156, or 46.2 percent, were earned by women. The percentage of all research doctorates earned by women increased slightly in 2021.

But when we look at doctorate degree awards in specific disciplines, we find that the overall numbers hide a continuing wide gender gap in many specific disciplines.

Here are some of the academic fields in 2021 where women earned less than one third of all doctorates awarded:

Artificial intelligence 16.2%
Biblical studies 16.9%
Electrical and computer engineering 17.0%
Mechanical engineering 18.3%
Physics 19.0%
Computer science 21.7%
Mathematics 22.5%
Finance 28.1%
Chemical and petroleum engineering 29.4%
Theoretical chemistry 29.6%
Astrophysics 30.1%
Econometrics 30.3%
Civil engineering 31.5%
Homeland security 32.0%
Hydrology 32.1%

In contrast, there are a number of academic fields where women earned at least three quarters of all doctoral degree awards in 2021. Some examples include:

Nursing education 92.1%
Nursing science 89.4%
Bilingual or multicultural education 88.3%
School psychology 85.7%
Communications disorders science 84.3%
Clinical child psychology 82.7
Special education 80.9%
Developmental psychology 79.5%
Social work 78.1%
Art history 77.8%
Nutrition sciences 77.5%
Family and consumer science 75.0%

Filed Under: Research/Study

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