Women’s Role in Science, Mathematics and Engineering


The ratio of women in science, mathematics, and engineering has witnessed a dramatic increase in recent decades (NSF 4). On the other hand, women tend to be concentrated in specific disciplines, while most specialties perpetuate sex-segregate (CPST 85). As such, a balanced representation would afford women proportionate access to lucrative, esteemed sciences careers and introduce novel viewpoints to scientific and technical creativity.

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In the United States, for example, gender inequality in science representation showed up early. Although the science is liked by two-thirds of the children, on the other hand, gender disparity in interest and outlook erupts during middle school (AAUW 12; NSF 70-71). At the moment, the number of science courses taken by girls is proportionate with those taken by boys in high school, although most girls who choose higher science courses in high school neglect science in college.

Disparities continue to express regardless of the increased women’s interest in SEM fields. African-American women have been proven to exhibit increased interest in MSE courses. Science college women’s representations differ by field and race or ethnicity. Women constitute more than half of total undergraduates in life sciences (NSF 2007a 260).

At the advanced level of MSE education, the ratio of women declines continuously. For instance, even though women represent approximately half of mathematics graduates, they represent just 27% of doctorates. Nevertheless, this gender signifies a considerable proportion of life science PhDs, more or less attaining equity in geosciences, chemistry, and agriculture, while it is inadequately represented in engineering, physics, and computer science (NSF 2007a, 266).


The ratio of men to women employed across the science and engineering sector is 73:27 (NSF2007a, 301). In the past 25 years, the share of science and engineering careers has grown by more than a half for African-Americans; from 2,6% to 6.9%. Also, the growth for all women increased from 12 % to 25%, despite the existing racial and ethnic disparities (NSF 2007a 341). White women constitute about 20% of the total 4.9 employees in the sciences and engineering sectors, black women represent 2%,

Asian-American, Hispanic women 1.2% and American Indian women only 0.1%.

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Academic-based employment is an important domain since faculty educates and impacts students. Thus, the proportion of women in MSE academic professions has become increasingly better, although slowly and disparately throughout disciplines. This trend can be attributed to the age composition in academia (Long 237-9), and the gender disparity is neutralizing in various fields at the deputy professor level.

Nevertheless, men in MSE are more inclined to occupy a higher position relative to women, in any professional context. If at all we intend to realize parity in the representation of women at the faculty level, there is a need to undertake rigorous modifications in enrollment and retention rates. Data indicate that women are crowded in lower-status ranks, such as early tenure-track positions, lower-status facilities, and non-tenure-track academic ranks where disproportion is a factor of gender as well as ethnicity or race (NSF 2007a, 312).

Factors that supported or refuted the progress of women MSE

Researchers have disclosed the reasons for poor representations of women in all levels of MSE careers. First, the classroom atmosphere for girls and women students as well as faculties in various university departments is uncompromising. Girls and women students are approached distinctively compared with their male counterparts in a subtle and obvious manner. Particularly, the routine of facilitating classroom discussions increased disparities when male students are afforded more praise and consideration by the teachers.

Second, scarcity of role models has also been accounted for the low representation of women in MSE. Women scholars regard faculty as role models for profession and family equity, and when they perceive career requirements to be extreme, they often abandon their department by large numbers relative to male counterparts (Laursen and Thiry 18). Female scientists depend on role models and mentors who are sensitive to the unique events for men and women in the sciences.

Third, poor preparation and insufficient motivation in MSE subjects have also been implicated for the low representation of women in SEM fields. Although women undergraduate students begin their majors well credited and knowledgeable, they experience a decline in confidence during the first year of their MSE studies. The major attributes the women indicate for dropping include fading interest in MSE, insufficient teaching, and demoralizing experiences at academic challenges. In addition, girls may be inadequately trained compared to boys in math and science from high schools, coming behind the males in certain parameters of science success and self-confidence in their MSE prowess (AAUW 129).

Fourth, deficient “critical mass” of women in MSE departments may cause disappointment and a significant decline of female scientists. The concept of critical mass argues that access to social networks and critical resources improves with an increased representation of women in MSE departments. Nevertheless, the inconsistency of “critical mass” is underpinned by the culture and organization of academic sciences, which must be altered so that more women can pursue MSE careers. “Critical mass” is only crucial when the organization is democratically accommodative.

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The fifth implication for retarded progression of women in MSE, especially in academic science, is prejudice and segregation in women’s employment and advancement. People develop normative presumptions and stereotypes concerning gender that impact their view of the characteristics and behavior of men and women. For instance, women scientists are viewed as less knowledgeable compared to their male counterparts. Women faculty increasingly become marginalized with every advancement in their careers at their institution due to, exposure to various forms of inequities, including salary, honors, lab space, reactions to external job opportunities, and resources, although their professional achievements are equivalent to their male counterparts.

The sixth attribute for this representation disparity is salary inequalities throughout the entire sector of employment. Despite the surplus number of men compared to women in academic positions across all institutions (2:1), the disparity is more prominent in doctorate-granting, research-oriented, and comprehensive institutions. Importantly, women are represented in two-year institutions and medical schools.

According to NSF (2004b, 67), male engineers and scientists have a higher chance of employment and retention in the field of their highest academic status, as opposed to their female counterparts who prefer to work part-time outside their field of study. Moreover, college-educated females in male-dominated specialties receive 76% of what college-educated male counterparts receive as reimbursement on graduation (AAUW 27).

Lastly, computer science and engineering graduates continue to enjoy exorbitant salaries (NSF 2005) at either bachelor’s or master’s positions. Seeing that women receive 21% of bachelors or masters degrees in engineering, and 25% and 31% of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science respectively, such reimbursement disparities have enduring implications for women’s reimbursement (NSF2007a 37).

Works Cited

AAUW (American Association of University Women). Shortchanging Girls/Shortchanging America. Washington DC: AAUW Educational Foundation. 1992. Web.

AAUW (American Association of University Women). Behind the Pay Gap. 2007. Web.

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CPST (Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology). STEM Workforce Data Project. Women in science and technology: The Sisyphean challenge of change. Report no. 2004. Web.

Laursen Sandra and Thiry Heather. Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Florida; Kristine De Welde., 2007. Print.

NSF (National Science Foundation). Division of Science Resources Statistics, Arlington, VA: Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, NSB 06-01. 2006c.

NSF (National Science Foundation). Division of Science Resources Statistics, Arlington, VA: (2007a). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: NSF 07-315.

NSF (National Science Foundation). Division of Science Resources Statistics, Arlington, VA: (2007b). Back to School: Five Myths about Girls and Science. Press Release 07-108.

NSF (National Science Foundation). Division of Science Resources Statistics, Arlington, VA: (2004b). Gender Differences in the Careers of Academic Scientists and Engineers, NSF 04-323.

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