Friday, September 17, 2010

Dr. Ms.

From the Washington Post: Report: More women than men in U.S. earned doctorates last year for first time

As the article notes, the gender ratio for undergraduate and masters degrees has been tipped toward women for a while now. So it was only matter of time before doctoral programs followed suit. But, how far up the pipeline can we go with this? As the article says:

But women who aspired to become college professors, a common path for those with doctorates, were hindered by the particular demands of faculty life. Studies have found that the tenure clock often collides with the biological clock: The busiest years of the academic career are the years that well-educated women tend to have children.

"Many women feel they have to choose between having a career in academics and having a family," said Catherine Hill, director of research at the American Association of University Women. "Of course, they shouldn't have to."
Emphasis is mine. Couple that with the difficulty of establishing a foothold in a department with overwhelmingly male senior faculty and you have a pretty tough glass ceiling to break.

It's also important to realize that most of the gains for women have been made in fields like health sciences, social & behavioral sciences, and education. As the article states, "Men retained the lead in doctoral degrees until 2008, largely through their dominance in engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences." That includes astronomy.

The sobering message of the article is that even when we do achieve parity in doctoral degrees awarded, retaining those women and getting them into the ranks of senior faculty will still be an uphill battle.

1 comment:

toddlerplanet said...

Of course they shouldn't have to!

Isn't the answer to this age-old question primarily a question of flexibility? If women (and men!) are allowed months (or years!) off for child-bearing and raising, but allowed to reenter the field later, can't we start to close this gender gap AND keep many of our brightest from making this choice?

Shouldn't young astronomers be able to have a career AND a baby?