More women getting Ph.D.s in US

A report is out indicating that for the first time since tracking began, more women than men earned Ph.D.s in the U.S.A. last year.  (Right-click on the word ‘report’ in the WaPo story, but note that the pdf you’ll download is 3.5 megs.)

Of course, when I read the actual report, the Humanities are not where the hot trends are, and across the board, the inequities are not yet gone:

Overall, women and girls make up 51 percent of the U.S. population. But women have not conquered every corridor of the ivory tower. Men still hold the majority of faculty and administration positions. Women earn less than men at every level of academic rank, according to the American Association of University Professors. Male faculty members earned $87,206 on average and their female counterparts made $70,600 in the 2009-10 academic year. Starting salaries for newly minted faculty members are nearly equal.

Men retained the lead in doctoral degrees until 2008, largely through their dominance in engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences. They still earn nearly 80 percent of engineering doctorates.

8 thoughts on “More women getting Ph.D.s in US

  1. I find the use of “more” interesting in this description of the facts. According to my calculation based on the numbers given in the article, Women earned 50.4% of the PhDs. Rather than being more, that seems more like an equal number of PhDs to those earned by men. Since women make up 51% of the population if they earn (not quite) 51% of the PhDs, then that seems like parity to me rather than “more.”

    I worry that this description increases antagonism between the sexes. Women achieving parity is interpreted as “more” or getting ahead. This kind of interpretation lends itself to calls for redress.

  2. The claim by Daniel de Vise was a numerical claim, not a claim about proportion. “Of the doctoral degrees awarded in the 2008-09 academic year, 28,962 went to women and 28,469 to men.” Hence the more-ness.

  3. While 28,962 is, strictly speaking, greater than 28,469, it’s not *much* greater, especially in historic context. Phrased in either absolute or relative terms, Bakka’s point is that it would be entirely reasonable to say that the number of PhDs going to women is *about the same as* the number going to men.

  4. But it would not be entirely reasonable, since it would undercut the news that this is the first time ever that women have received more Ph.D.s than men in one year.

  5. This article raises big questions for me, several of which the article gestures toward.
    The first is, how do we celebrate successes like these without undercutting the urgency of continuing to address remaining issues, some of which are deeply structural? I am thinking about issues of work-life balance as it relates to the tenure clock and parental leave policies.
    The second question concerns implicit bias and hiring practices. Most of the people I work with (from engineering departments and natural science departments), see their trouble recruiting women as being caused, often completely caused, by lack of diversity within applicant pools. They have a hard time seeing implicit bias in their own hiring practices. I worry that pointing to increases in the number of women PhD’s, without attention to things like implicit bias (and structural inequality) can lead to a larger group of un- and under- employed women with doctorates.
    My third concern, regards retention, again I worry about being distracted by educational success from issues of workplace culture that hinder the promotion and advancement of these women who do get jobs.
    This article, which is nuanced and thoughtful, made me want to throw a party, but I feel like I need to sprinkle the invitation with cautionary footnotes and it ended up making me sad.

  6. Oh, alpha, throw the party! Can I come to this party? I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was at least a little happy!

    Your excellently worded concerns are about where to go from here, and what to do with the news. I am celebrating first, and taking up the hard work of what to do with inevitable — how did Bakka put it — ah yes, calls for redress, after the balloons lose their helium in the morning.

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