Here Come the Women

July 10th, 2009 | Sources: NY Times, PNAS


Prospects at major research universities have improved for female scientists and engineers, although they still struggle to match male peers when it comes to salary, according to a report published by the National Research Council.

nowaboutthatraise“Men and women faculty in science, engineering and mathematics have enjoyed comparable opportunities,” in recent years, the report concluded.

In particular, women who apply for university positions, promotion and tenure are at least as likely to succeed as men.

A great equalizer in encouraging women to apply for jobs, the report found, was the presence of women on the committees tasked to fill the positions.

The Council, part of the National Academy of Science, was convened by Congress. It surveyed biology, chemistry, civil and electrical engineering, mathematics and physics. It relied on faculty interviews and data from federal registries and professional societies.

It was chaired by Claude Canizares, the VP for research at MIT, and Sally Shaywitz, a learning expert at Yale.

Meanwhile, a second report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that the gender-related achievement gap in mathematics has vanished of late.

“U.S. girls have reached parity with boys, even in high school and even for measures requiring complex problem solving,” reported Wisconsin University-based researchers Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz.

And, Laurence Summers take note, girls are catching up in the ranks of so-called math prodigies, a finding that undermines claims that profound mathematical talent is the biological destiny of males.

The Wisconsin researchers used data from the No Child Left Behind program and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Gender-related differences were “close to zero in all grades,” they found, including high school where gaps had previously existed.


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