Women, minorities increase presence in science and engineering
Women now earn almost half of the baccalaureate degrees awarded in science and engineering, more than 40% of the master's degrees, and more than one-third of the doctoral degrees, according to a report from the NSF. Since 1966, the proportion of baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees earned by women has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled, respectively.
The greatest proportional gain for women at the baccalaureate level is in engineering, although overall women remain concentrated in psychology and the social sciences.
The researchers found similar relationships at the master's level, with women skyrocketing to 5,163 master's degrees in engineering in 1998 from only 76 in 1966, an almost seventyfold increase. At the doctoral level, women earned 773 Ph.D.s in 1998 vs. a scant eight Ph.D.s in 1966.
There is more good news for women contemplating a career in science or engineering. According to NSF research, there is negligible salary difference between male and female engineers with comparable experience. A recent study "showed that the salary gap is primarily explained by the fact that female engineers, on average, have fewer years of experience since their first baccalaureate degree than males. Salaries of female and male engineers with similar years of experience are virtually the same."
A study of women, minorities, and disabled people in engineering programs (NSF 00-327) found that enrollment of Caucasian students in undergraduate engineering programs declined from 1987 to 1996, then began rising again in 1997.
For minorities, however, enrollment showed steady gains: "Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian enrollment in engineering generally increased between 1987 and 1997. Black enrollment in engineering peaked in 1993 and dropped in three of the four years from 1994 to 1997. Blacks were the only racial/ethnic group in which undergraduate engineering enrollment went down from 1996 to 1997; the decrease was, however, less than 1%."
Assessing persistence following enrollment, the researchers found that men and women were equally likely to graduate, and whites were more likely to graduate than blacks; small sample sizes precluded determination of the relative graduate rates of Asians and American Indians.
Additional data is available at the NSF Web site at www.nsf.gov.