14 thoughts on “Number of women in PhD programs

  1. I suspect these numbers will be wildly misleading in some cases–they aren’t at all right for Princeton, for example.

  2. Yes, they’re almost certainly off by quite a bit in many cases – as the author readily admits.

    I hope people help out by sending amended information for their own programs where possible, though, rather than just complaining that the numbers are off. (Not trying to suggest that was what you were doing, anonymous!) I think that it’s great that people are making an effort to get numbers like this together, and the more accurate they are the better.

  3. It’s also worth highlighting the fact that these are only programs ranked by the Leiter Report (as the author states at the outset). This covers only around half the total number of U.S. PhD programs.

  4. It’s not even all the Leiter ranked schools; Georgetown is not on there and many other places are missing too; I don’t know how the schools included were chosen. I’m suspicious of this thing. Pittsburgh is misspelled. I guess that’s irrelevant? But the whole thing feels unreliable to me.

  5. Given the figures listed, there is some advice one would give. Presumably we shouldn’t do that since the inaccuracy is high. So corrections are needed asap.

    Question: i think some departments let one stay on the books for a very long time. Don’t some schools have a sharp cut-off point? That could make some difference.

  6. What advice would you give to get more women to *apply* to one’s program? This is a serious request for suggestions.

  7. Rebecca, which other schools did you think were missing? I just went through the list and it looks like all the Phil Gourmet schools to me (including Georgetown). I only checked the numbers on two schools– on one, the number of male students had been under-counted, and on the second, the number of female students over-counted. So, obviously the numbers are off (again, as he admitted) but I have no idea in which way overall. (And I sent in a correction on my program.)

  8. In (I believe) 2008 (it might have been 2009) I did something similar. I unfortunately no longer have the spread sheet, as the computer on which I had the document was destroyed by my dog. (I kid you not, but at least I got a song out of it, “Hard Drive” by the 21CM.) For what little it’s worth, the numbers here seem to look a lot like the spread I had in 2008/2009, although there are, going solely by the reported numbers and my memory, more women grad students at less than “top 20” schools than when I did the counting (my methodology was exactly the same — i guessed male/female on the basis of name alone, and relied wholly on what was on department webpages.) I also did not do all of the top 50, since at the time there many departments that did not list the names of their grad students. But at the time it did look like the following is true: by and large, higher ranked grad programs have a higher percentage of female grad students. I didn’t do any sophisticated analysis though.

    So for what little it is worth, I find the numbers relatively plausible, although I am certain there are errors. But they are easy enough for departments to correct.

  9. I want to emphasize what #6 said. Some schools have wildly different numbers on attrition and enrollment generally because they keep students on the books for years and years, even long after they’ve effectively dropped out.

    The second point to make–just as a caveat, not because anyone is suggesting otherwise–is that just because a school has a higher percentage of women grad students doesn’t mean it’s a better place to be a woman grad student. Whether it is a good place to be a woman grad student depends on many factors, only one of which is how present women grad students are. So this information should be taken only very little, or not at all, as indicating quality of a grad program’s atmosphere for women. If there is any ‘hard’ indicator of that, it is a school’s placement record for women (which is unfortunately not always obvious, since placement records often do not have names/genders–but schools should be willing to give this out). But that, too, is of limited informational value; mostly to find this out one needs to talk to people in the program and find out what it is like to be a student there.

  10. “But at the time it did look like the following is true: by and large, higher ranked grad programs have a higher percentage of female grad students.”

    I’m not sure this is correct. It seems to be true that lower Leiter Report ranked programs have proportionally fewer women than higher Leiter Report ranked programs. But it’s also worth noting that many of the departments with strong reputations as being places where lots of women study (e.g. Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Oregon) are unranked by Leiter and thus are not accounted for. So, again, I think we’re missing out on a great deal of data from unranked programs.

  11. “I’m not sure this is correct. It seems to be true that lower Leiter Report ranked programs have proportionally fewer women than higher Leiter Report ranked programs. ”

    The second sentence above is all that I meant though.

    I didn’t look at non-Leiter ranked programs. I think that’s true of whomever did this newer list as well. (I remember the process of going through all the ranked websites as being incredibly tedious.)

  12. @ #7 (“curious”): good question. I think there’s a lot more room for the Rutgers-style summer program for minorities and women. I have known talented female students who haven’t been accepted but would benefit from the opportunities provided by such programs — and such programs of course provide an opportunity for person-to-person outreach, which is generally a very effective way to encourage applications.

    It would also of course help to let prospective students know that one welcomes female and minority applicants, by, say, highlighting the relevant working groups (e.g., MIT’s WOGAP) on one’s web site, making sure that photos of graduate students include female and minority members of the department, including explicit statements re: whether/how the department is working to rectify the gender imbalance, and perhaps posting gender-specific data on job placement. (Any data on job placement is likely to help; in my experience, talented female undergraduate students tend to be more savvy and pragmatic about their options than their male counterparts. They just want to *know* what the stats are. Negative stats are better than no stats at all — and negative stats may at least prompt the sort of discussion that will tell them whether or not the program genuinely supports and welcomes female students.)

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