In 2006, the first large scale analysis of the underrepresented women in STEM gained national media attention. Data showed women lagged behind men in obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, computer sciences, physics and math. Training programs became more mindful in their recruitment and actively began looking at who they were recruiting and how to achieve gender parity.

News from this month’s National Student Clearing House Research Center on how theses initiatives faired was released last month and the numbers are grim. Total number PhD’s awarded annually in the sciences increased steadily from 86,996 to 147,378 from 2006 to 2016. In spite of a near doubling, no substantive gains in the percent of women obtaining degrees in the sciences were made at any level of higher education.  While biological & agricultural sciences and social sciences & psychology have maintained parity, engineering, computer science, mathematics, physical sciences, and earth, atmospheric & ocean sciences are still struggling. The gaps between males and females were particularly pronounced with more advanced degrees. The percentage of women with doctorates lagged in every scientific discipline except biological/agricultural and social/psychological studies.

For those inclined to offer “insights” including genetic predisposition to aptitude in these fields, suggestions that we add more training and recruitment targeting these individuals or form working groups to study these issues, I refer you to the embedded links.

I spent the better part of a day playing with these numbers to see if there was an overrepresentation of one discipline or clear gap that would increase the supply of female PhDs (eg women who obtained Master’s Degrees towards the end of the sample period who would be positioned to get PhDs in the future), but I found nothing to offer hope. I would invite you to play with the data and offer any insights you might have.

I ended up looking at kitten gifs to make me feel better. I like this one.


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