Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The gender divide for PhDs

The gender divide in geography and history was the subject of this post, with middle school boys trouncing girls in the National Geographic Bee.  Now I learn that women obtained 42% of the PhDs in history in 2009.  That compares to 34% in 1989 and 40% in 1999. For all disciplines combined, women earned 43% of all doctorates in 1999 and 47% in 2009.  This trend is consistent with the relative decline of men in most measures of academic achievement.

Percentage of Ph.Ds awarded in the U.S. to Women in 2009, Selected Disciplines

Found at Ann Althouse

More at Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)


  1. Am I reading this graph right? It claims that 20% of PhDs in computer science went to women, which is way too high.

  2. I think the gender divide is partially because more women are interested in teaching. Men simply don't go into history because all you can do is teach it.

  3. Yes, it says 20%. What other source do you have? They may be measuring different things.

  4. Well, I checked Taulbee, and it does look like it was 18% last year. It was 17% in computer engineering, and 40% in information science/technology. There are some interesting things that I noticed. First of all, overall PhD production in CS/CE rose dramatically in the last few years. Secondly, women make up only 13% of bachelors degrees in CS. The reason that the number is higher at the PhD level, in my opinion, is that there are lots of foreign students at the PhD level. It is well known that other countries have a higher rate of women in computer science. Here in the U.S., through the 80's, about 30 to 40% of bachelors degrees in CS were given to women. And then, in the mid to late 80's, it plummeted. It didn't plummet as much in other countries. It is very different from the situation in physics, where women never had much participation. Something about American computer geek culture changed in the 80's in such a way as to drive women out.

  5. "American computer geek culture" - so interesting. Makes me think of this:

    According to this New York Times story, less than 15% of Wikipedia contributors are female. This imbalance may be due to "the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women."

    Wikipedia gender gap