I frequently see articles talking about the problem of the “leaky pipeline” in the STEM field (e.g., Ellis, Fosdick, & Ramussen, 2016). Women are leaving science at every stage, and there has been a big push to encouraging girls and women to stay in STEM academic fields. In THIS NSF report, we get a glimpse at the scope of the problem. We can see that women had been increasing their percentages of science and engineering doctorates up until around 2009, but hasn't moved since then: “Women’s share of S&E doctorates awarded increased from 33% in 1996 to 42% in 2009, and it has remained stable since then."
Within the field of Education, the story is quite different. The percentages of women earning doctorates much higher than the rest of the sciences. Here is a figure depicting the percentages of Education Ph.D.s awarded to women from 1949 - 2012. It starts very low, around 18% in 1949, but increases fairly quickly; stabilizing at 68% around the year 2000*.
If the problem was the pipeline, then education seems to have solved it. All of these women getting Ph.D.s should translate into academic jobs.
To examine that link, I looked at the NCES datalab (https://nces.ed.gov/datalab/powerstats/output.aspx). After narrowing the results to the field of Education, we can look at the percentages of professors at each rank. Here we can see two different stories. For all females in academic jobs within education, 24% of them are tenured. For all males, it was 33%. However, taking the percentages the other way, tells a seemingly more positive story. Of all academics in the field of education, 62% of them are women. But of all tenured faculty approximately half (51%) are women.
To provide some perspective, I looked up those figures for the Natural Sciences, where 25% of all faculty and 18% of tenured faculty are women. Clearly women represent more of the education sciences than they do of the natural sciences, however there is still more work to be done.
In Education, where 68% of Ph.D.s awarded to women, it is clear that the field is not disproportionally losing women at the initial job stage. Representation is approximately the same at the Ph.D. level as for faculty not on the tenure track (64% - 67%) or who are on the tenure track but not yet tenured (69%). It is somewhere during the tenure process that they leave the field.
This finding is one of the reasons that I have worked with the other executive board members to found Providing Opportunities for Women in Education Research (POWER). We seek to connect, support, and advocate for women who are working in this field to help them stay in the pipeline and continue to contribute to science. Read more about POWER and our mission HERE.
*Note: I pulled data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/. The datasets were called: "Doctorate recipients, by subfield of study and sex", which I pulled for each year. I harvested the number and percent of men/women for the education field from each dataset and combined them into this graph.