Much has been written in the past two decades about women in academic science careers, but this literature is contradictory. Many analyses have revealed a level playing field, with men and women faring equally, whereas other analyses have suggested numerous areas in which the playing field is not level. The only widely-agreed-upon conclusion is that women are underrepresented in college majors, graduate school programs, and the professoriate in those fields that are the most mathematically intensive, such as geoscience, engineering, economics, mathematics/computer science, and the physical sciences. In other scientific fields (psychology, life science, social science), women are found in much higher percentages. In this monograph, we undertake extensive life-course analyses comparing the trajectories of women and men in math-intensive fields with those of their counterparts in non-math-intensive fields in which women are close to parity with or even exceed the number of men. We begin by examining early-childhood differences in spatial processing and follow this through quantitative performance in middle childhood and adolescence, including high school coursework. We then focus on the transition of the sexes from high school to college major, then to graduate school, and, finally, to careers in academic science. The results of our myriad analyses reveal that early sex differences in spatial and mathematical reasoning need not stem from biological bases, that the gap between average female and male math ability is narrowing (suggesting strong environmental influences), and that sex differences in math ability at the right tail show variation over time and across nationalities, ethnicities, and other factors, indicating that the ratio of males to females at the right tail can and does change. We find that gender differences in attitudes toward and expectations about math careers and ability (controlling for actual ability) are evident by kindergarten and increase thereafter, leading to lower female propensities to major in math-intensive subjects in college but higher female propensities to major in non-math-intensive sciences, with overall science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors at 50% female for more than a decade. Post-college, although men with majors in math-intensive subjects have historically chosen and completed PhDs in these fields more often than women, the gap has recently narrowed by two thirds; among non-math-intensive STEM majors, women are more likely than men to go into health and other people-related occupations instead of pursuing PhDs. Importantly, of those who obtain doctorates in math-intensive fields, men and women entering the professoriate have equivalent access to tenure-track academic jobs in science, and they persist and are remunerated at comparable rates—with some caveats that we discuss. The transition from graduate programs to assistant professorships shows more pipeline leakage in the fields in which women are already very prevalent (psychology, life science, social science) than in the math-intensive fields in which they are underrepresented but in which the number of females holding assistant professorships is at least commensurate with (if not greater than) that of males. That is, invitations to interview for tenure-track positions in math-intensive fields—as well as actual employment offers—reveal that female PhD applicants fare at least as well as their male counterparts in math-intensive fields. Along these same lines, our analyses reveal that manuscript reviewing and grant funding are gender neutral: Male and female authors and principal investigators are equally likely to have their manuscripts accepted by journal editors and their grants funded, with only very occasional exceptions. There are no compelling sex differences in hours worked or average citations per publication, but there is an overall male advantage in productivity. We attempt to reconcile these results amid the disparate claims made regarding their causes, examining sex differences in citations, hours worked, and interests. We conclude by suggesting that although in the past, gender discrimination was an important cause of women’s underrepresentation in scientific academic careers, this claim has continued to be invoked after it has ceased being a valid cause of women’s underrepresentation in math-intensive fields. Consequently, current barriers to women’s full participation in mathematically intensive academic science fields are rooted in pre-college factors and the subsequent likelihood of majoring in these fields, and future research should focus on these barriers rather than misdirecting attention toward historical barriers that no longer account for women’s underrepresentation in academic science.
Historically, there has been a strong connection between increasing educational attainment in the United States and the growth in and global leadership of the economy. Consequently, there have been calls—from the College Board, the Lumina and Gates Foundations, and the administration—to increase the postsecondary completion rate in the United States from 39 percent to 55 or 60 percent. The challenge is greatest for underrepresented minorities: In 2006 only 26 percent of African Americans, 18 percent of American Indians, and 16 percent of Hispanics in the 25- to 29-year-old cohort had attained at least an associate degree. The news is even worse in S&E (science and engineering) fields. In 2000, as noted in Gathering Storm, the United States ranked 20 out of 24 countries in the percentage of 24-year-olds who had earned a first degree in the natural sciences or engineering. Based on these data, Gathering Storm recommended efforts to increase the percentage of 24-year-olds with these degrees from 6 percent to at least 10 percent, the benchmark already attained by several countries. But again, the statistics are even more alarming for underrepresented minorities. These students would need to triple, quadruple, or even quintuple their proportions with a first university degree in these fields in order to achieve this 10 percent goal: At present, just 2.7 percent of African Americans, 3.3 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and 2.2 percent of Hispanics and Latinos who are 24 years old have earned a first university degree in the natural sciences or engineering.
When Keivan Stassun arrived at Vanderbilt University’s department of physics and astronomy in 2003 as an assistant professor, he saw neighboring, historically black Fisk University as an obvious collaborator. The two institutions are two miles apart in Nashville. “Look, we have two good things here and they’re practically touching," he recalls thinking. "There must be something we can do with what we’ve got.”
Women represent a large part of the talent pool for research science, but many data sources indicate that they are more likely than men to “leak” out of the pipeline in the sciences before obtaining a tenured position at a college or university.
Existing explanations of class marginality predict similar social experiences for all lower-income undergraduates. This paper extends this literature by presenting data highlighting the cultural and social contingencies that account for differences in experiences of class marginality. The degree of cultural and social dissimilarity between one’s life before and during college helps explain variation in experiences. I contrast the experiences of two groups of lower-income, black undergraduates—the Doubly Disadvantaged and Privileged Poor. Although from comparable disadvantaged households and neighborhoods, they travel along divergent paths to college. Unlike the Doubly Disadvantaged, whose precollege experiences are localized, the Privileged Poor cross social boundaries for school. In college, the Doubly Disadvantaged report negative interactions with peers and professors and adopt isolationist strategies, while the Privileged Poor generally report positive interactions and adopt integrationist strategies. In addition to extending present conceptualizations of class marginality, this study advances our understanding of how and when class and culture matter in stratification processes in college.
The committee sought to examine and restate the benefits that the College derives – as an institution, and for its students and faculty – from student body diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity.
The Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is widely viewed as a national model of a program that enhances the number of underrepresented minority students who pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics PhDs. The current article provides an overview of the program and the institution‐wide change process that led to its development, as well as a summary of key outcome and process evaluation research findings. African American Meyerhoff students are 5× more likely than comparison students to pursue a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics PhD. Program components viewed by the students as most beneficial include financial scholarship, being a part of the Meyerhoff Program community, the Summer Bridge program, study groups, and summer research. Qualitative findings from interviews and focus groups demonstrate the importance of the Meyerhoff Program in creating a sense of belonging and a shared identity, encouraging professional development, and emphasizing the importance of academic skills. Among Meyerhoff students, several precollege and college factors have emerged as predictors of successful entrance into a PhD program in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, including precollege research excitement, precollege intrinsic math/science motivation, number of summer research experiences during college, and college grade point average. Limitations of the research to date are noted, and directions for future research are proposed.
Performed on October 11, 2014 on the campus of Harvard College as part of the I, Too, Am Harvard Blacktivism Conference
This play is based on interviews with black undergraduate students at Harvard College conducted by Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014. All words performed by the actors are the words of real students taken from those interviews.
This chapter argues that mainstream institutions of higher education in the United States have a distinctive moral responsibility to promote corrective racial justice for Black Americans. It traces this moral responsibility to the fact that these institutions have historically been complacent actors in the perpetuation of racial injustice. According to the author, current corrective policies like affirmative action fail to allow institutions to satisfy their responsibility towards Black Americans. These policies fail, first, because their basis in the value of diversity is morally inadequate, and second, because they do not do enough to remedy Black socioeconomic disadvantage insofar as they fail to increase the number of qualified Black students seeking entry to these institutions. The author calls for additional measures to secure corrective justice. He proposes one such measure: Mainstream institutions of higher education sponsoring “academy schools” directed at serving underprivileged Black students at the primary and secondary levels.
Many institutions understand the benefits of diversity and would like to enhance diversity among its students, faculty and staff, including postdocs. This has been easier to accomplish in certain fields, yet the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields lag behind. There have been some positive changes at the level of diversifying the students in the STEM fields, but this is not translating into diversification at the faculty level. The long-term goal is to increase the diversity of STEM faculty. In order to do that, steps need to be taken to ensure that a pipeline of individuals can progress through undergraduate programs into graduate programs through a postdoctoral position and into a tenured faculty position. In order to move qualified individuals through the pipeline these primary components are essential 1) recruitment 2) retention and 3)preparation for the next phase. Below are some suggestions of ways institutions can increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM) participation in STEM fields.
NPA ADVANCE: From Postdoc to Faculty: Transition Issues for Women Scientists is a project to foster the transition of women postdocs into the professoriate. Supported by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, the project will adapt and disseminate promising institutional practices for assisting women scientists and engineers in making this transition. The NPA will draw on successful models from both past ADVANCE programs as well as from the postdoctoral community, then adapt and promote them through various avenues.