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Women in the Academic Pipeline II

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Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 2:18am

Following up on my previous post, Women in the Academic Pipeline, where I compared rates at which women earned BAs and PhDs in various fields in the US: what does it look like in the faculty ranks? Not surprisingly, the percentages in general go down as you go higher, but there are some interesting (and disturbing) things to notice. First, the data:

Teaching field BA PhD Lecturer/
  Assistant   Associate   Full  
Biological sciences 62.2% 46.5% 47.7% ±7.5% 37.9% ±7.3% 25.9% ±5.9% 20.4% ±5.4%
Computer and information sciences 25.1% 22.0% 31.9% ±4.9% 27.1% ±11.6% 31.6% ±12.5% 26.8% ±14.3%
Engineering 18.8% 17.7% 11.3% ±5.0% 10.2% ±7.1% 9.2% ±4.3% 4.3% ±2.8%
english 68.9% 60.3% 67.3% ±4.2% 60.4% ±12.1% 56.5% ±12.1% 41.7% ±9.0%
Mathematics and statistics 46.0% 28.1% 42.3% ±5.9% 32.9% ±13.2% 24.5% ±11.7% 17.8% ±7.2%
Philosophy 29.2% 31.4% 23.8% ±12.3% 14.0% ±12.3% 29.3% ±21.8% 12.6% ±12.9%
physical sciences 41.7% 27.8% 31.6% ±6.9% 29.3% ±10.4% 19.1% ±7.8% 8.9% ±4.4%
Social sciences 50.9% 42.6% 33.1% ±5.4% 36.2% ±8.7% 32.6% ±7.2% 19.7% ±4.5%

This data comes from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF:04) and was generated from a table generated using their convenient QuickStats feature. The BA and PhD percentages come from the previous post, for 2003-04 graduates.

The representations of women among Assistant Professors in philosophy (14%) is much lower than expected, and among Associate Professors (24%) much higher than expected. Why? Are the women getting stuck at the Associate Professor rank? In most fields women are better represented in the instructor ranks than in the PhD pool, except in engineering, the physical sciences, and philosophy. And in computer science, the line goes up and not down. Sign something they did in the 90s to increase women representation among faculty worked?

UPDATE: Prompted by Kenny's comment, I computed the errors on those figures, and since they are rather large for some data points (especially for philosophy), take these with a grain of salt! And ignore the last paragraph.

UPDATE: Women in philosophy by tenure status


Submitted by Kenny on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 3:25am

My initial thought on looking at the data was that in biology, engineering, english, and social sciences, there has been some sort of gradual move towards parity that is working itself through the pipeline. However, in other fields (especially computer science), current cohorts are far less equally distributed than some previous cohorts were, which suggests some sort of back-sliding.Do you know what the absolute numbers are in these data sets? I would suspect that philosophy is far smaller than any of the other fields you list here, so there's some possibility that anomalous numbers might be partially explained by (for example) a few women being promoted to associate earlier than male colleagues. Though I doubt that's actually the explanation.

Submitted by Dirk Schlimm on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 3:46am

Very informative, thanks Richard!

Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 3:52am

For CS, it might be that proportionately more women than men choose a teaching career, because working in the computer industry is even worse than working in a computer science department?And women being promoted faster than men in philosophy? Yeah, that's a likely explanation. But you're right, it might be that for some reason more women associate professors returned the surveys than assistant professors did. This data comes from a survey. The other data is collected from universities directly, who are probably mandated by federal law to collect and provide it to the DoEd. So: no absolute numbers. But the survey went to 35,000 faculty, with a response rate of about 80%, and 1.1% of those returned came from philosophy faculty. 11.3% of them were associate professors, so we're talking about 30 people. Which, I guess, casts some doubt on the general validity of the data overall, huh?

Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 4:05am

Here's the table I used: you know what to make of the standard errors and can tell me how sagnificant these numbers are, I'd be grateful.

Submitted by Richard Zach on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 5:30am

I computed the errors, and yeah, you're right. For philosophy associate professors, the data is useless. Don't need a survey to tell me that the percentage of women is somewhere between 10 and 50%.