COMPARISONS TO OTHER NATIONAL ACADEMIES’ REPORTS
This report does not exist in isolation. The committee has benefited greatly from three other National Academies’ reports on women in academic science and engineering. In 2001 the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) published From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers, a statistical analysis of the career progression of matched cohorts of men and women Ph. D.s from 1973 to 1995. The 2005 CWSE report, To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in U. S. Science and Engineering, identifies the strategies that higher education institutions have employed to achieve gender inclusiveness, based on case studies of four successful universities.
A third report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, was released in 2006 under the aegis of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP). The study committee was charged to “review and assess the research on sex and gender issues in science and engineering, including innate differences in cognition, implicit bias, and faculty diversity” and “provide recommendations. . . on the best ways to maximize the potential of women science and engineering researchers.” The committee considered all fields of science and engineering (including the social sciences) in a broad range of academic institutions, relying primarily on existing data and the experience and expertise of committee members. Its report provides broad policy recommendations for changes at higher education institutions.
In contrast, the current report examines new information on the career patterns of men and women faculty at RI institutions—with particular focus on key transition points that are under the control of the institutions. The findings and recommendations here are based primarily on the data from our two surveys, which were not available to the COSEPUP committee.
Like the COSEPUP committee, this committee found evidence of the overall loss of women’s participation in academia. That loss is most apparent in the smaller fraction of women who apply for faculty positions and in the attrition of women assistant professors before tenure consideration. Unfortunately, our surveys do not shed light on why women fail to apply for faculty positions or why they may leave academia between these critical transition points—underscoring the fact that our work is not done.
Our survey findings do indicate that, at many critical transition points in their academic careers (e. g., hiring for tenure-track and tenured positions and promotions), women appear to have fared as well as or better than men in the disciplines and type of institutions (RI) studied, and that they have had comparable access to many types of institutional resources (e. g., start-up packages, lab space, and research assistants). These findings are in contrast to the COSEPUP committee’s general conclusions that “women who are interested in science and engineering careers are lost at every educational transition” and that “evaluation criteria contain arbitrary and subjective components that disadvantage women.”
After providing a brief overview of the Status of Women in Academic Science and Engineering in 2004 and 2005 in Chapter 2, the report presents the results of the survey findings in the three areas: Academic Hiring (Chapter 3), Climate, Institutional Resources, Professional Activities, and Outcomes (Chapter 4), and Tenure and Promotion (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 provides an overall summary of key findings and recommendations, including questions for future research.