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October 27, 2003
Volume 81, Number 43
CENEAR 81 43 pp. 58-59
ISSN 0009-2347


Fluctuations are positive overall, but advances for women in academia are small nevertheless


In some respects, there is progress in the percentage of women faculty members in the top 50 chemistry departments. That progress, however, is unevenly distributed. This is the fourth year that C&EN has examined this topic, and as in previous years, women are still underrepresented among the full professor ranks, despite slow and steady overall headway.

C&EN surveyed schools identified by the National Science Foundation as having spent the most on chemical research in 2001, the latest year for which data are available. The schools were contacted by e-mail and telephone and asked to provide the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty holding full, associate, and assistant professorships with at least 50% of their salaries paid by the chemistry department for the 2003–04 academic year. These numbers exclude emeritus professors, instructors, and lecturers. The response rate was 100%.

A comparison of this year's list to last year's shows some differences in the schools included. Schools appearing on NSF's list for the first time are Rice University and Wayne State University. The University of Georgia, Athens, which was on the list in 2000, and the University of Maryland, College Park, which was on the list in 2001, are back in the top 50 list. Not making the 2003 list, but on it in 2002, were Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University; the University of Virginia; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of Kansas. Together, those schools had 14 female chemistry faculty members, whereas the four schools that replaced them have 12.5.

Among the top five schools with the highest proportion of women in the total faculty, Rutgers reclaims the first-place spot it held in 2001: 10 women, or 25% of the faculty. Pennsylvania State University follows with seven women, or 23% of the faculty. Next is the University of California, Los Angeles, with 11 women who make up 22% of the faculty. Florida State University moves into fourth place with 20%, or six women. Tied for fifth place are Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona, where women make up 19% of the faculty. MIT has six women and the University of Arizona, five.

At the other end, just two schools on the list this year--Stanford University and Emory University--have only one woman faculty member. Ten schools have two women, and 13 have three.


In academic year 2003–04, women represent 12% of the total chemistry faculty at the top 50 institutions. This is the same percentage as 2002–03 (C&EN, Sept. 23, 2002, page 110) and up from 11% in 2001–02 (C&EN, Oct. 1, 2001, page 98). In absolute terms, while the total number of faculty declined from 1,630 last year to 1,592 this year, the total number of women faculty increased from 188.5 to 196.5.

Women continue to be concentrated in the assistant and associate professor ranks. Women make up 21% of assistant professors, which is unchanged from last year but an improvement over the 18% share in 2000, the first year of the survey. Women's representation among associate professors has been more consistent, settling around 20% for the past four years. By comparison, women currently account for 8% of full professors, up from 7% last year. The 2000 baseline was a 6% share. These numbers are consistent with a 2001 report from the National Research Council that shows that, even though the average career age of women is less than men, men are more likely than women to hold tenure at any professional age.

Mary Frank Fox, NSF Advance Professor of Sociology at Georgia Institute of Technology, advises that the data should be considered against the trajectory of chemistry Ph.D.s awarded to women over time. That trajectory shows a steady increase in the percentage of chemistry Ph.D.s awarded to women but does not correspond to an associated increase in women moving through the academic ranks.

ACCORDING TO FOX, academic women have already survived barriers of selection, both self-selection into science and selection by institutions. They have moved through the education pipeline and have earned the credentials for professional work. However, women's educational attainments are not translating into career achievements, especially advancement in rank, compared with men's.

"The critical issue in the data," Fox says, "is that women's doctoral degrees are not translating into expected academic rank over time. Despite the number of women with doctoral degrees earned in the 1970s and 1980s, and the passage of years allowing these women to mature in professional experience, the proportion of women who attain academic rank as full professor has not kept pace with the growth of women holding doctorates. Even assuming up to 15 years from receipt of doctorate to rank of full professor, women's degrees are not translating into expected rank over time."


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society

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Only 8% of full chemistry professors at top 50 universities are women

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[C&EN, October 1, 2001]

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