In addition to focusing on select factors affecting academic careers, the study has limited its scope to particular types of institutions, individuals, and disciplines. First, the focus of this study is primarily current, rather than historical or predic­tive. It is beyond the scope of the charge and the resources of the committee overseeing this report to estimate future trends for female faculty.

Second, there are thousands of higher education institutions in the United States. This study does not address any pipeline issues regarding educational preparation and training prior to application for a tenure-track position. As stated above, the study focuses primarily on doctoral-granting institutions, specifically the 89 Research I institutions (also know as research-intensive institutions) defined by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1994 and listed in Appendix 1-2. These institutions were picked because of their prestige, the role they play in training future generations of scholars, their contribution to scholarship, and the amount of research they undertake.[14] The data gathered about research universities will also likely serve as a useful starting point for the examination of other types of higher education institutions.

Third, this study will focus primarily on full-time, regularly appointed, pro­fessorial faculty. Due to the committee’s interest in what has traditionally been the typical academic career path within Research I institutions, the target population is limited to assistant, associate, and full professors. By and large, these are the fac­ulty who are tenure eligible, who both teach and conduct research, who supervise most of the graduate students who will be the next generation of scholars, and who are most likely to receive the widest range of institutional support. Instructors, lecturers, postdocs, adjunct faculty, clinical faculty, and research faculty are not included. While these faculty are important, they have very different career paths and warrant separate study.

Fourth, although data are provided for many natural science and engineer­ing disciplines in assessing historical gender differences in academia, the new data collected for this report by the two surveys of department chairs and faculty focus on six fields: the biological sciences, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics.[15] The purpose of the primary data col­lection on a subset of fields was to allow for an examination of the career paths for men and women facing similar expectations and constraints. Although the findings may identify male/female differences prevalent throughout science and engineering faculties, the reader is cautioned about generalizing from the findings. Not only may they not apply to all fields of science and engineering, but also it may be inappropriate to generalize from findings in physics and chemistry, for example, to all physical sciences or from civil and electrical engineering to all engineering fields.