Chapter 5:


Minority Women

Representation in Science and Engineering 

Minority women are 19 percent of all women in the science and engineering labor force and 4.2 percent of all scientists and engineers in the labor force. (See text table 1-1 and appendix table 5-22.) Black women are 1.3 percent, Hispanic women are 0.6 percent, American Indian women are 0.1 percent, and Asian women are 2.2 percent of scientists and engineers in the labor force. Within every racial/ethnic group, women are a smaller proportion of the science and engineering labor force than are men.

Field of Science and Engineering 

Field choices of minority women are more similar to those of white women than they are to those of minority men. Higher proportions of women than men within each racial/ethnic group are in computer or mathematical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences and lower proportions are in engineering. Asian women differ from women in other racial/ethnic groups in that a relatively small proportion are in social sciences. (See appendix table 5-22.)

Labor Force Participation, Employment, and Unemployment 

Black and Asian women scientists and engineers are more likely than women from other racial/ethnic groups to be in the labor force and to be employed full time in a field related to their degree. Seventy-one percent of black and 72 percent of Asian women scientists and engineers compared with 61 percent of white women, 68 percent of Hispanic women, and 65 percent of American Indian women were employed full time in their field. (See appendix table 5-23.) Conversely, more white women (15 percent) than black women (9 percent) and Asian women (7 percent) are employed part time.

The unemployment rate for white women scientists and engineers is much lower than is the case for other racial/ethnic groups: 1.8 percent compared with 2.3 percent for Hispanic women, 2.7 percent for black women, and 3.0 percent for Asian women.

Sector of Employment 

Academic Employment 

As previously discussed, men and women and racial/ethnic groups differ in academic employment characteristics, such as rank and tenure. Women are less likely than men to be full professors, and minority faculty are less likely than white faculty to be full professors. Minority women are less likely than white women and less likely than men of any racial/ethnic group[11]  to be full professors. (See appendix table 5-24.) As in other cases, these rank and tenure differences may be related to age differences.

Tenure differences may also be related to rank. Minority women are less likely than white women or men of any racial/ethnic group to be tenured. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic women, 36 percent of black women, and 17 percent of Asian women compared to 38 percent of white women, 62 percent of white men, and between 39 and 50 percent of Hispanic, black and Asian men are tenured. (See appendix table 5-25.) The small percentage of Asian women who are tenured is also related to differences in academic position. A relatively larger proportion of Asian men and women are in positions for which tenure does not apply, for example, postdoctoral fellows and nonfaculty research appointments.

Nonacademic Employment 

Minority women scientists and engineers in business or industry have, for the most part, similar work activities as white women and minority men. For example, from 26 to 34 percent of women in most racial/ethnic groups are primarily engaged in research, and from 17 to 21 percent of women in most racial/ethnic groups are in management or administration (the exception being 13 percent of Asian women in management). (See appendix table 5-26.) Women, regardless of racial/ethnic group, are more likely than men to work in computer applications and are less likely than men to work in research and development.


Median annual salaries of minority women are similar to those of both white women and minority men, controlling for field and age. Among engineers in the 20- to 29-year-old age group, for example, the median salary of Hispanic women was $40,000, for black women $42,000, for Asian women $37,700, and for white women $38,800. Median salaries for men engineers in the same age group ranged from $38,000 to $40,000. (See appendix table 5-27.)

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[11] Excluding American Indians for whom data are unreliable due to small sample size

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