Mathematics and Education

A slow blog

Statistics on women in STEM

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Note: A brief annotated list of reputable sources of statistics about women and girls in mathematics and other scientific disciplines is here. Selected statistics (with sources) are here.

Ceci and Williams’s February 8, 2011 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says:

Since 1970, women have made dramatic gains in science. . . . In the most math-intensive fields, however, women’s growth has been less pronounced (2–4). Among the top 100 US universities, only 8.8–15.8% of tenure-track positions in many math-intensive fields (combined across ranks) are held by women, and female full professors number ≤ 10%. (SI Text, S1)

The statement in the second sentence doesn’t correspond to the SI text, which says:

Percentages of women hired on tenure track were as follows: chemistry, 21.2%; mathematics, 26.8%; computer science, 20.0%; physics, 16.8%; chemical engineering, 24.2%; civil engineering, 24.7%; electrical engineering, 15.5%; and mechanical engineering, 18.0%.

There is also a mistake in the SI text. The SI percentages come from Nelson & Brammer, 2010. However, Nelson & Brammer did not collect statistics on tenure status. See the figures for assistant professors and all ranks at top 100 departments in Table 11 of the survey.

This is the same type of garble discussed below in 2010. Percentages for all ranks in the top 100 are labeled “tenure-track at top 100″ and percentages of assistant professors at the top 100 are labeled “tenure track.”

Other relevant statistics that suggest a different picture of women’s participation in academic science from that described in the PNAS article appear in Kessel & Nelson (2011). Statistical Trends in Women’s Participation in Science: Commentary on Valla and Ceci (2011), Perspectives on Psychological Science. The manuscript for this article is here: Kessel&Nelson.perspectives ms.

The arguments made in the PNAS article are similar to those made in Ceci and Williams’s book The Mathematics of Sex. Some of these arguments and the studies cited in support have been analyzed in detail in previous posts (see below).

Marie Vitulli and I have written a short analysis of the PNAS article. It’s posted here at the Association for Women in Mathematics web site.

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Written by CK

February 10, 2011 at 4:18 pm

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