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Press Release 96-081
Diversity in Science & Engineering: Progress and Problems

December 10, 1996

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Amid a few signs of recent progress towards more diversity in education and the workplace, underrepresentation persists. For example, women and minorities continue to take fewer high-level mathematics and science courses in high school; they still earn fewer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in science and engineering (S&E); and they remain less likely to be employed in S&E jobs than are white males.

Those are the conclusions of a new government report, Women, Minorities and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering 1996. Published by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the report reveals progress as well as signs of persistent underrepresentation:

  • Among 1994 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) takers, fewer women (13 percent) than men (31 percent) intended to pursue natural science, mathematics, or engineering fields. Yet, women's grades among first-year college students planning S&E majors are higher than men's.

  • A substantial gap in mean salary -- $13,200 -- exists between men and women with S&E doctorates. Much of the gap is due to differences in age and S&E field.

  • Women are less likely to be on a tenure track and are more likely to teach part time or on short-term contracts.

  • 60 percent of both white and Asian high schoolers took Algebra II in 1992, while less than half of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians did so.

  • Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians are taking more high school science classes than in the past. The percentage of blacks and Hispanics taking chemistry and physics doubled between 1982 and 1992.

  • Minorities (except Asians) remain a small proportion of U.S. scientists and engineers. Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians as a group were 23 percent of the U.S. population, but 6 percent of the S&E labor force in 1993.

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) continue to play an important role in undergraduate education, despite the growing diversity of the nation's campuses. Thirty percent of black students receiving S&E bachelor's degrees in 1993 received them from HBCUs.

  • About 20 percent of the U.S. population has some form of disability. These people made up about 13 percent of all employed persons in the United States in 1991 and five percent of the 1993 S&E labor force.

  • Employed S&Es with disabilities are comparable to those without disabilities in employment sector, primary work activity and managerial status.

"Women, minorities and persons with disabilities have historically been underrepresented in scientific and engineering occupations," the introduction to the NSF report notes. "Some progress has been made over the last several decades, especially in degrees to women, but there is still room for improvement."


Media Contacts
George Chartier, NSF, (703) 306-1070, gchartie@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Joan S. Burrelli, NSF, (703) 292-8774, jburrell@nsf.gov

Related Websites
Women, Minorities and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering 1996: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf96311/

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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