Chapter 1:

Introduction


Representation in Science and Engineering

Substantial gains have been made in the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering in the last two decades. The gender gap in high school mathematics course taking has disappeared for the most part, and women are earning close to half of the bachelorís degrees in science and engineering. The employment experiences of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering are also improving. Unemployment rates no longer differ by sex, although differences remain among racial/ethnic groups and between those with and without disabilities. Salaries, controlling for field and length of experience, are similar across sex, race/ethnicity, and disability categories and the proportions of scientists and engineers in management within certain age categories are similar across sex, racial/ethnic, and disability categories. Despite similarities, widely different levels of participation exist within fields, degree levels, and sectors of employment.

Women

Women are approaching half of science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients. The proportion of bachelorís degrees in science and engineering awarded to women held fairly constant in the early to mid-1980s at 38 to 39 percent but has been steadily increasing since then, reaching 46 percent in 1995. (See appendix table 3-3.) Women have been more than half of bachelorís degree recipients in non–science-and-engineering fields since at least 1966 and were 59 percent of bachelorís degree recipients in non–science-and-engineering fields in 1995. Within science and engineering, some fields have a higher proportion of women than others. In 1995, women earned 73 percent of bachelorís degrees in psychology, 50 percent of bachelorís degrees in biological/agricultural sciences, and 50 percent of bachelorís degrees in social sciences. They earned about one-third of the bachelorís degrees in physical sciences; earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences; and in mathematical/computer sciences. They earned 17 percent of the bachelorís degrees in engineering.

Women earn a smaller proportion of masterís and doctoral degrees in science and engineering than they do of bachelorís degrees. In 1995, women were 38 percent of masterís degree recipients and 31 percent of doctorate recipients in science and engineering. (See appendix table 4-27.) By contrast, in non–science-and-engineering fields, women earn about the same proportion of advanced degrees as they do of bachelorís degrees. In 1995, women earned 59 percent of bachelorís degrees, 60 percent of masterís degrees, and 53 percent of doctoral degrees in non–science-and-engineering fields. (See figure 1-1 and appendix table 4-28.)

Women constitute 46 percent of the U.S. labor force, and 22 percent of scientists and engineers in the labor force. (See appendix table 1-2 and text table 1-1.) The lesser representation in science and engineering compared to the labor force as a whole can be explained in part by their more recent entry into science and engineering and by the higher proportion of women than men with science and engineering degrees who are employed outside of science and engineering. The highest degree earned and the science and engineering field in which women earn their degrees influence participation in the science and engineering labor force. For example, a large proportion of women who earned bachelorís degrees in the social sciences, which are defined by NSF as science and engineering degrees, are then employed in social services occupations (for example, social worker, clinical psychologist).[1] 

Minorities [2] 

Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians are less likely than whites to participate in higher education whether in science and engineering or in non–science-and-engineering fields. Although blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians as a group are 23 percent of the U.S. population, they are 21 percent of college enrollment, 14 percent of non–science-and-engineering bachelorís degree recipients and 13 percent of science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients. (See text table 1-1 and appendix tables 1-1, 3-1, and 3-7.)

College enrollment and degree attainment by blacks, Hispanics and American Indians has been increasing. Minority enrollment has been steadily increasing since 1990, both in numbers and as a percentage of total enrollment. In 1990, underrepresented minorities were 17 percent of all undergraduate students; by 1994, they were 21 percent. (See appendix table 3-7.) Minority women are a larger percentage of undergraduate students than are minority men. Underrepresented minority women constituted 12 percent of total undergraduate enrollment in 1994 whereas underrepresented minority men constituted 8 percent.

Both the number and proportion of degrees in science and engineering earned by minorities increased since 1990. By 1995, blacks earned 7 percent of science and engineering bachelorís degrees to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, up from 5 percent in 1985; Hispanics earned 6 percent, up from 4 percent; and American Indians earned 0.6 percent, up from 0.4 percent.[3]  (See appendix table 3-1.) A higher proportion of bachelorís degrees in science and engineering to blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians were earned in social science (38 percent) and in psychology (21 percent) than was the case for other groups: 34 percent of those earned by whites and 24 percent of those earned by Asians were in social science and 19 percent of those earned by whites and 11 percent of those earned by Asians were in psychology.

Underrepresented minorities as a whole are 6 percent of the science and engineering labor force. Asians are 10 percent of the science and engineering labor force. (See text table 1-1.)

Minority Women

Minority women are as well represented among science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients as minority men, for the most part. Black women are more likely than black men to earn bachelorís degrees, whether in science and engineering or in other fields. Black women were 4.3 percent of science and engineering and 5.0 percent of non–science-and-engineering bachelorís degree recipients in 1995; black men were 2.9 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively. (See figure 1-2.) The same proportion of bachelorís degrees in science and engineering were earned by Hispanic women and Hispanic men (2.9 percent) in 1995. Likewise, the same proportion of American Indian women and American Indian men (0.3 percent) earned bachelorís degrees in science and engineering in 1995. Asian women were a slightly smaller proportion (3.4 percent) of bachelorís degree recipients in science and engineering than were Asian men (4.2 percent).

As is the case for minority men, black, Hispanic, and American Indian women are less represented among bachelorís degree recipients, whether science and engineering, or non–science-and-engineering, than they are among the population as a whole. As a group, they were 12 percent of the population, 9 percent of non–science-and-engineering bachelorís degree recipients, and 7 percent of science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients in 1995. Asian women, however, were 2.4 percent of non–science-and-engineering and 3.4 percent of science and engineering bachelorís degree recipients and were 1.7 percent of the population. (See text table 1-1.)

Black, Hispanic, and American Indian women are less represented among science and engineering doctoral degree recipients than are minority men. As a group, they earned 2.8 percent of science and engineering doctorate degrees to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 1995. (See appendix table 4-40.) Black, Hispanic, and American Indian men are 3.5 percent of science and engineering doctorate recipients. Asian women are a higher proportion of science and engineering doctorate recipients than they are of bachelorís degree recipients, but are less likely than Asian men to earn doctoral degrees in science and engineering.

Minority women (including Asians) are 19 percent of all women in the science and engineering labor force and 4 percent of all scientists and engineers in the labor force. (See text table 1-1 and appendix table 5-22.) Within every racial/ethnic group, women are a smaller proportion of the science and engineering labor force than are men. (See figure 1-3.) Field of degree results in differences in employment statistics, as will be discussed in chapter 5.

Field choices of minority women are more similar to those of white women than to those of minority men. Smaller proportions of black and Hispanic women than of black and Hispanic men are in engineering, and higher proportions are in the broad fields of computer/mathematical sciences and social sciences. Asian women are more likely than other women to be engineers and less likely than other women to be social scientists. (See appendix table 5-22.)

Persons With Disabilities

Data on participation of persons with disabilities are less available than data on other groups. These data are seriously limited for several reasons. First, there have been differing operational definitions of "disability" that include a wide range of physical and mental conditions. Different sets of data have used different definitions and thus are not totally comparable. Second, data about disabilities are frequently not included in comprehensive institutional records (for example, in registrarsí records in institutions of higher education). Concerns about confidentiality often inhibit collection or dissemination by institutions of data on disabilities. The third limitation on information on persons with disabilities gathered from surveys is that it often is obtained from self-reported responses. Typically, respondents are asked if they have a disability and to specify what kind of disability it is. Resulting data, therefore, reflect individual decisions to self-identify, not objective measures.

Although NSF collects data on persons with disabilities in most of its surveys and uses common definitions among its surveys, these surveys cover people who earn doctoral degrees in science and engineering or who are employed in science and engineering. NSF does not collect data on precollege education or undergraduate education. The National Center for Education Statistics of the Department of Education does collect data on those levels of education, but in most instances does not include measures of disability status. For example, colleges and universities do not maintain data on students with disabilities. Therefore, enrollment and degree data collected from colleges and universities are not reported by disability status.

Estimates of the proportion of the population with disabilities vary greatly. About 20 percent of the population have some form of disability, with about 10 percent of the population having a severe disability.[4]  (See appendix table 1-3.) These disabilities may or may not require accommodation or limit an individualís ability to participate in educational experiences or to be productive in an occupation; these factors account for some of the variability in estimates of the size of this population.[5] 

Persons with disabilities are underrepresented in the workforce and in the science and engineering workforce. Persons with disabilities were 13.9 percent of employed persons in 1994 and 4.9 percent of employed scientists and engineers in 1995.[6]  (See text table 1-1 and appendix table 1-4.) Women with disabilities are less likely than men with disabilities to be employed and to be employed in science and engineering. (See figure 1-4 and appendix table 1-5.)


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Footnotes

[1] Social services occupations are defined in NSF surveys as non–science-and-engineering occupations.

[2] The term "minority" includes all groups other than white; "underrepresented minorities" includes three groups whose representation in science and engineering is less than their representation in the population: blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians. In accordance with Office of Management and Budget guidelines, the racial/ethnic groups described in this report will be identified as white, non-Hispanic; black, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; Asian or Pacific Islander; and American Indian or Alaskan native. In text and figure references, these groups will be referred to as white, black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian. In instances where data collection permits, subgroups of the Hispanic population will be identified by subgroup name.

[3] U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.

[4] Estimates of the proportion of the population with disabilities vary due to differing definitions of "disability." See the technical notes in appendix A for a discussion of the limitations of estimates of the size of this group.

[5] For a discussion of the data problems in describing the population with disabilities, see McNeil (1993).

[6] The incidence of disability increases with age. More than half of doctoral scientists and engineers who indicate they have a disability became disabled at age 30 or later. See appendix table 5-29.


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