Feature

Almost twice as many women earn bachelor's degrees in the science and engineering fields today than 30 years ago, according to a new report, "Professional women and minorities," published by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST).

In 1967, women earned about 25 percent of science and engineering undergraduate degrees; in 1997, they earned 48 percent. In the natural sciences, including physical, math, computer, environmental and life sciences, women earned 37 percent of all BAs in 1997.

At the master's level, women earned 57 percent of all degrees, up 6.7 percent from 1982. However, women are still a minority in the science and engineering fields, earning 41.5 percent of all science and engineering master's degrees. And while women earned nearly 42 percent of the doctorates awarded in 1998, they earned only 34.3 percent of science and engineering doctorates.

The report also found that gains by minority groups--African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans--have not been as substantial as those evidenced by women. The percentage of undergraduate degrees awarded to African-Americans grew from 5.5 percent in 1990 to 7.7 percent in 1997, while Hispanics increased their proportion from 4.2 percent to 6.4 percent and Native Americans rose from 0.4 percent to 0.6 percent. Asian-Americans earned 5.9 percent, an increase of 2.2 percent, during the same timeframe.

These small undergraduate gains translate into even smaller graduate gains. By 1997, African-Americans earned 2,200 master's degrees in science and engineering or about 5.7 percent of earned degrees. Hispanics earned 4.3 percent, totaling 1,306 degrees. Native Americans earned 155 degrees or about 0.5 percent. Of the 18,125 science and engineering doctorates awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents in 1998, African-Americans earned 639 degrees (3.5 percent); Hispanics, 752 degrees (4.1 percent); and Native Americans, 96 degrees (0.5 percent).

The report by CPST, of which APA is a member, also found that women and minorities comprise a smaller proportion of the science and engineering workforce than they do of degree recipients. Women made up only 23 percent of the total science and engineering labor force in 1997. However, psychology employed the highest proportion--nearly 64 percent--of women in its labor force. At 8.8 percent, engineering employed the least proportion of women. Minorities accounted for 16.5 percent of the total science and engineering workforce.

chart of women as a proportion of the science and engineering labor force by occupation, 1997