Unemployment Rates Reflect Greater Gender Equality
For the first time in over two decades, unemployment
rates between men and women with doctoral degrees in science and engineering
were the same, according to a recent Issue Brief from the Division
of Science Resources Studies (SRS).
The Issue Brief, written by Carolyn F. Shettle, Director of the
Doctorate Data Project of SRS, highlights the dramatic contrast between
1995 unemployment rates and those of 1973. In 1973, research conducted
by the National Academy of Sciences on individuals with doctoral degrees
in science and engineering revealed that the unemployment rate for women
was 3.9% versus only 0.9% for men.
In contrast, the SRS study shows that the 1995 unemployment rate for
both men and women holding doctoral degrees in science and engineering
was 1.5%. This equality represents the culmination of a steady narrowing
of the gender gap over the last two decades.
Given overall trends toward gender equality, these research results are
not terribly surprising, according to Shettle. "The vanishing gender gap
in the doctoral science and engineering population," she writes, "is a
reflection of a similar trend in the general population."
By the early 1980s, research conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor
was already showing that the gender gap in the general population had,
in essence, disappeared. Ten years later, the diminishing gap is reflected
in the doctoral science and engineering unemployment rates.
The Issue Brief also details SRS research into the relationship
between unemployment, gender roles and marriage. Again, study results
reflect common sense. Unmarried men had higher unemployment rates than
married men; unmarried women, on the other hand, tended to have significantly
lower unemployment rates.
Shettle explains, "Traditionally, men were expected to be the primary
'bread-winners' in a family, and women were expected to be homemakers...because
of these different roles, it is logical to expect marriage and children
to lead to lower unemployment rates for men, but higher unemployment rates
Shettle believes the importance of the research lies chiefly in its implications
for the future. "Are women at a disadvantage in the doctoral science and
engineering labor force? Do marriage and children have different effects
on male and female employment?" Shettle continues. "The answers to these
questions are important to science and engineering policymakers, program
administrators, and individuals in or considering entering the science
and engineering labor force."
For free copies of SRS Issue Briefs, call SRS at (703) 292-8774, or send an e-mail