Women for the first time earned a majority of U.S. doctoral degrees, building on decades of gains in higher education.
In the 2008-2009 school year, women received just over half of all doctorates, up from 49 percent in 2007-2008 and 44 percent in 2000, according to a report released today by the Washington-based Council of Graduate Schools, which represents more than 500 universities. The report doesn’t include professional degrees in law, business and medicine.
The milestone became inevitable because women have received the majority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees since the 1980s, building a pipeline of doctoral candidates, Nathan Bell, the council’s director of research and policy analysis, said in a telephone interview. Women are building on the gains of an earlier cohort of female scholars who were pioneers, said Elizabeth Sutton, who received her Ph.D. in art history in 2009.
“In my generation, we have more mentors to look up to who are female,” Sutton, an assistant professor at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, said in a telephone interview.
The efforts of the women’s movement and increasing female participation in all parts of the labor market led to gains in Ph.D. programs, Jacqueline King, assistant vice president of the Washington-based American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,600 college presidents, said in a telephone interview.
The survey examined 57,600 doctorates, 90 percent of the total in the U.S. Women earned 67 percent of education doctorates and 70 percent of the doctorates in health sciences, a category that includes nursing.
Men received 78 percent of engineering doctorates and 73 percent of math and computer sciences doctorates. Men’s dominance in these fields helps explain why women report lower incomes than men, Bell said.
“More women are earning doctorates, but it isn’t in the fields that earn the highest salaries,” Bell said.
Women remain underrepresented in the academic profession, accounting for 41 percent of fulltime college faculty and 27 percent of senior professors, according to the American Association of University Professors, based in Washington. Women faculty members earn, on average, 80 percent of men’s pay, said John Curtis, the association’s research director, in a telephone interview.
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