Monday, May 14, 2007

Closing the Gender Gap in California?

She's Such a Geek points to an analysis of PhDs awarded by California universities, originally published in the Sacramento Bee, that shows the gender gap to be narrowing.

For its analysis, The Bee looked at computer science, the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering -- the four large disciplines with the biggest gender gap in doctoral students.

In the UC system between 1994 and 1996, 527 women received doctorates in those disciplines, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission. From 2003 to 2005, the most recent years available, that number rose to 681. That's a roughly 30 percent increase.

A big, obvious gap still exists -- but it's shrinking. Across the UC system, the ratio of men-to-women doctorates in those four disciplines went from 4.8 to 1 a decade ago to 3.5 to 1 in the most recent figures.

PhDs awarded by California private colleges show a similar trend. They attribute some of the increase to the "snowball effect," in which the presence of women in science and engineering programs makes those programs more woman-friendly. They also cite the active recruitment of women and other underrepresented groups.

I'd expect the gap to be even narrower if the natural sciences were included in the study, since even back in 1993 women earned 40% of the doctorates in the biological sciences.

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