Innovation and Development for the Americas



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he International Museum of Women (IMOW, 2010) publishes several maps with statistics regarding women issues. As the maps in Figure 1 show, although the data they feature is not current, they show disparity between wages earned by women and men, and the incidents of reported violence against women is a cause for concern in the Americas.

Figure 1. Maps related to gender issues from the International Museum of Women (IMOW, 2010)

Since LACCEI focuses on Engineering Education, this paper will concentrate on the data regarding women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The United States National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine published Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Sciences and Engineering (US-NA, 2007). The importance of attaining equality for women in the STEM disciplines is emphasized by this study:

“The U.S. economy relies on the productivity, entrepreneurship, and creativity of its people. To maintain its scientific and engineering leadership amid increasing economic and educational globalization, the United States must aggressively pursue the innovative capacity of all of its people—women and men. Women make up an increasing proportion of science and engineering majors at all institutions, including top programs such as those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where women make up 51% of its science undergraduates and 35% of its engineering undergraduates. For women to participate to their full potential across all science and engineering fields, they must see a career path that allows them to reach their full intellectual potential. Much remains to be done to achieve that goal.” (US-NA, 2007)

Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice stated:

“Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.” (USSP, 2003).

Globalization is challenging the U.S. longstanding scientific pre-eminence and its economic leadership. To retain the competitiveness of the Western Hemisphere, the Americas must address the inequities in gender and ethnic representation in the STEM fields.


Looking at the percentage of science and engineering PhDs awarded to women in the twenty year period 1974-2004, the U.S. National Academies, using data from the National Science 2006 Survey of Earned Doctorates 1974-2004, constructed the summary shown in Figure 2. Note that women in 2004 have attained equality in representation in the Social Sciences and Life Sciences but are still lagging in Physical Science and Engineering. In the top 50 engineering departments in the U.S., women earn one-fourth of the PhD’s granted in Chemical Engineering and 15% in engineering overall (Handelsman et al, 2005). Although women constitute about half of the total workforce in the U.S. and receive half of the degrees in certain scientific fields, they number only one-fifth of the nation’s scientific and technical workers (US-NA, 2007).



Figure 2. Percentage of science and engineering PhDs awarded to women, 1974-2004 (US-NA, 2007). Source: National Science Foundation (2006). Survey of Earned Doctorates, 1974-2004, Arlington, VA.
The Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies publishes for 60 years enrollment in engineering and technology (AAES-EWC, 2009). The authors compared enrollments in Fall 2008 (the latest available at the time of publication of this article) to Fall 1998 to see the gender trend differences in enrollment, shown in Table 2 (AAES-EWC, 2009; AAES-EWC, 1999). Comparing 1998 to 2008 shows that the total number of women enrolled in engineering disciplines in higher education increased in number from 93,608 to 111,042, showing an 18.6% increase in total women studying engineering; however the number of students in engineering increased from 477,346 to 596,058 so the net change in percentage of women in engineering programs decreased by almost 1 per cent. A ten year comparison shows that the percentage of women in BS engineering programs decreased by 2.19% to 17.53%, in MS engineering programs increased very slightly by 1.49% to 21.60%, and in PhD engineering programs increased by 4.62% to 22.12%. These numbers do not track with the 35% enrollment of women in the MIT program. It is clear that engineering still has far to go to reach equality in representations in the higher education programs.
Table 2. Ten year comparison of women enrolled in engineering disciplines in the U.S.


U.S. Engineering Enrollment 1998 vs. 2008 BS, MS, and PhD

 

Fall 1998

Fall 2008

Percent

Undergraduate

Undergraduate

Change

Degree

Women

All

% of Total

Women

All

% of Total

Ten Yrs

BS - Full Time

66,276

329657

20.10%

73046

411345

17.76%

-2.35%

BS - Part Time

6,117

37334

16.38%

4625

31607

14.63%

-1.75%

BS - All

72,393

366991

19.73%

77,671

442952

17.53%

-2.19%

MS - Full Time

8004

38976

20.54%

13199

60169

21.94%

1.40%

MS - Part time

6657

33927

19.62%

7476

35544

21.03%

1.41%

MS - All

14661

72903

20.11%

20675

95713

21.60%

1.49%

PhD - Full Time

5486

30543

17.96%

11307

50261

22.50%

4.54%

PhD - Part time

1068

6909

15.46%

1389

7132

19.48%

4.02%

PhD - All

6554

37452

17.50%

12696

57393

22.12%

4.62%

Total

93,608

477,346

19.61%

111,042

596,058

18.63%

-0.98%

Of concern to many women in choosing a career is the effect of marriage and the presence of young children on their career, unfortunately studies have found that marriage and children “spur the career advancement of men but slow the advantage of women” (Xie and Shauman, 2003). The U.S. National Academies study also summarized a National Science Foundation 2003 survey of women and men doctoral scientists and engineers in tenured or tenure-track positions, where they were asked their gender, marital status and presence of children (US National Academies, 2007). Figure 3 provides the comparison by discipline. On average, 64.4% of women doctoral scientists and engineers in tenure and tenure-track careers are married; compared to 83.4% of men; 42.2$ of women have children compared to 50% of men. Although these figures differ by field they have not substantially changed from 1993 to 2003. Figure 4(a) shows in of those women who are married, more women scientists and engineers are married to full-time working spouses (UN Academies, 2007). Figure 4(b) shows that 64% to 81% of women scientists and engineers marry fellow scientists and engineers (UN Academies, 2007).





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