Science Resources Studies Division
DATA BRIEF Directorate for
Social, Behavioral
and Economic

National Science Foundation
NSF 97-326, November 7, 1997

Science and Engineering Bachelor's
Degrees Awarded to Women Increase
Overall, but Decline in Several Fields

by Susan T.

Bachelor's degrees awarded in mathematics and computer science declined among both men and women from 1985 to 1995; in computer science, the percent decline in degrees to women was twice that of men.

A record number of science and engineering (S&E) bachelor's degrees were awarded to women in 1995. Women accounted for 47 percent of S&E bachelor's degrees awarded in that year.

The number of women graduating in S&E was 47 thousand higher in 1995 than in 1985 while the number of men graduating in S&E was similar in both years (but with a decline in 1990). Over this period, the greatest growth in S&E bachelor's degree awards to women occurred from 1990 to 1995 (table 1).

Women from minority groups had higher percentage increases than white women. Among the minority groups, the increases for black women were less than those of the other groups. But some of the large percentage gains—e. g., among American Indian women—still reflect the very small numbers of degrees (chart 1).

About half of the bachelor's degree recipients in the biological sciences and social sciences were women; in psychology, 73 percent of degree recipients were women in 1995. These fields are the ones that maintained overall growth in the period 1985 to 1995 among both men and women (table 2).

Among bachelor's degree awards in many of the other S&E fields, there was not consistent growth from 1985 to 1995. For example, bachelor's degree awards in chemistry declined among both men and women from 1985 to 1990, then they began to increase among both groups to 1995. However, awards in mathematics and computer science declined among both men and women during the entire period. The declines in mathematics among women were not as great as those among men. The percentage decline in computer science was much larger among women (51 percent) than among men (28 percent) from 1985 to 1995.

Women accounted for 47 percent of mathematics bachelor's degree recipients in 1995, and of chemistry recipients, 42 percent. Among computer science bachelor's degree recipients, women comprised 29 percent. The lowest representation of women was in physics (18 percent), a field in which the bachelor's degree awards to women have been level since 1990.

User Notes
The information presented in this Data Brief derives from two forthcoming NSF reports: Science and Engineering Degrees: 1966-95 and Science and Engineering Degrees, by Race/Ethnicity of Recipients: 1989-95. These reports are based on data collected from all colleges and universities for bachelor's and master's degrees and from all research doctorate recipients for doctoral degrees.

This Data Brief was prepared by:

Susan T. Hill
National Science Foundation
Division of Science Resources Studies
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230

This data brief and the two reports cited above are available from the World Wide Web ( For free copies of this Data Brief or the reports cited above, write to the above address, call (301) 947-2722, or e-mail to

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