AVAILABILITY OF WOMEN IN THE PH. D. POOL
The potential applicant pool consists of those individuals who could apply for one or more positions. In practice, universities know only the number of applicants who apply for any particular position for which they are recruiting, and the actual potential candidate pool remains unknown. Typically, the number of women receiving Ph. D.s in a field is used as a proxy for the eligible pool of women.
As noted in Chapter 2 and Appendix 2-1, the number of women receiving Ph. D.s in S&E had grown significantly over the years—both numerically and as a proportion of all those receiving doctorates in S&E. On average, over the period from 1999 to 2003, the 5-year period preceding the survey’s focus, Research I institutions awarded women 45 percent of the Ph. D.s in biology, 32 percent in chemistry, 18 percent in civil engineering, 12 percent in electrical engineering, 25 percent in mathematics, and 14 percent in physics. In 2003, 4,005 women received Ph. D.s from all doctorate-granting institutions for the six fields studied (see Appendixes 3-4 and 3-5):
• 2,598 Ph. D.s (45.7 percent) in biology;
• 647 Ph. D.s (31.8 percent) in chemistry;
• 125 Ph. D.s (18.7 percent) in civil engineering;
• 179 Ph. D.s (12.3 percent) in electrical engineering;
• 263 Ph. D.s (26.5 percent) in mathematics and statistics; and
• 193 Ph. D.s (18.0 percent) in physics.
A majority of doctoral degrees are awarded by the 89 Research I institutions (see Appendix 3-6).
On average, one might expect disciplines with higher proportions of female doctorates would also see higher proportions of female applicants. Thus, a reasonable expectation is women will make up a larger proportion of applicants to positions in biology and chemistry, followed by mathematics, civil engineering, physics, and electrical engineering. This seems to be the case generally for tenure – track jobs in our study (with the exception that the rank order positions of chemistry and mathematics are reversed, but it does not hold at all for tenured jobs.
A commonly heard gender-based explanation offered to account for differences between the proportion of women in the Ph. D. pool and the proportion among applicants for Research I positions is that many women S&E doctorates may not be interested in academic positions at Research I institutions. It is the case, as noted in Chapter 2, that many women Ph. D.s were employed outside academia, and within academia, many women were employed at institutions other than Research I institutions. This was not unexpected since the 89 Research I institutions make up only a small part of higher education institutions.
Fox and Stephan (2001) examined the preferences of 3,800 doctoral students in chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, microbiology, and physics. Overall, 36 percent of students had a preference for academic research, compared with 19 percent, who indicated a preference for academic teaching. In every case, the proportion of women preferring academic teaching was greater than that of men. Men strongly preferred academic research in chemistry, microbiology, and computer science, more than women did.
Sears (2003) conducted a survey of 1,105 graduate students from 24 math and science programs at the University of California at Davis, with a focus on comparing students’ initial career goals when they began graduate school with their current career goals. A crucial finding was “more men than women began graduate school with plans to work in research universities (84% of men, 71% of women), and during graduate school, more women than men abandoned this goal” (p. 172). Additionally, men, more than women respondents, were attracted to research universities. Bleak et al. (2000), in a survey of recently hired faculty, found men were more likely to apply to research universities than women. Data collected by the American Chemical Society also suggested women were choosing 4-year institutions over research universities (Brennan, 1996).
Why might women be less interested in positions in research universities? In general, women graduates may perceive the climate to be less welcoming, perhaps based on their perceptions of how they were treated in graduate school and their perceptions of how female faculty were treated. There was evidence that female graduate students may perceive the social or cultural context of doctoral education in S&E differently than male graduate students do. In a survey of 3,300 students in chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, and physics, conducted during 1993 to 1994, Fox (2001a) found:
• “Women are less likely than men to report that they are taken seriously by faculty and that they are respected by faculty” (p. 658).
• “In research groups, compared to men, women report that they are less comfortable speaking in group meetings” (p. 659).
• “Women report collaborating with fewer men graduate students and men faculty members in research and publications during the three preceding years” (p. 659).
• “Men are more apt to have received help [from advisers] in these areas [learning to design research, write grant proposals, coauthor publications, and organize people] across types of departments” (pp. 659-660).
• “Women are also more likely than men to report that they view their relationship with their adviser as one of ‘student-and-faculty’ compared with ‘mentor-mentee’ or ‘colleagues,’ which may suggest greater formality and social distance for women students” (p. 670).
• In terms of outcomes, men “publish more papers and are more likely to report that they will receive their degrees” (p. 660).
Fox (2001a:660) concluded “if women are constrained within the social networks of science—in departments or in the larger communities of science—this restricts their possibilities not simply to participate in a social circle but, more fundamentally, to do research, to publish, to be cited—to show the marks of status and performance in science (Fox 1991).” The level of socialization may affect the ability of individuals to find a position. In addition, the degree of integration into a department’s life as well as closeness with a faculty member may impact whether one learns important details about available academic positions or feels encouraged to apply.