The percentage of women holding faculty positions in physics and astronomy
is consistent with the percentage of women who earned degrees in those
fields in the past, according to a new report by the Statistical Research
Center of the American Institute of Physics. "The most provocative
thing about this report is the finding that women are not under-represented
on physics and astronomy faculties, as most people assume," said
Dr. Rachel Ivie, the study's author. Consideration of the "lag
time" between degrees and later stages of employment is "an
important part of the picture," the report points out. "Without
considering lag time," it says, "we are left with erroneous
conclusions about what the distribution of women faculty members should'
be without enough information about what the available pool of women
The report, "Women in Physics and Astronomy, 2005," released
in February, looks at the percentages of women who take physics and
astronomy in college, graduate with degrees and are employed as faculty
members. It finds that the numbers of women entering physics and physics-related
sciences are increasing. However, they are entering physics more slowly
than other fields of science, and women are still in the minority.
"Examination of the academic pipeline' reveals that women
disproportionately leave physics between taking it in high school and
earning a bachelor's degree," the report states. "While almost
half of high school physics students are girls, less than one-fourth
of bachelor's degrees in physics are earned by women. After this initial
leak' in the pipeline, women are represented at about the levels
we would expect based on degree production in the past. There appears
to be no leak in the pipeline at the faculty level in either physics
The report finds the representation of women in physics and astronomy
continuing to increase at all levels. "At the high school level,
almost half of physics students are girls. During 2003, women earned
22% of the bachelor's degrees in physics and 18% of the PhDs in physics
- a record high," the report says. "In astronomy in 2003,
women earned 46% of bachelor's degrees and 26% of PhDs." But physics
is not attracting women as quickly as other fields. "At the PhD
level," the report continues, "biological sciences, chemistry,
and mathematics all show faster rates of increase for women earning
PhDs than physics does. The exception is engineering, which has increased
at about the same rate as physics."
According to the report, women make up "10% of the faculty members
in degree granting physics departments. In stand-alone astronomy departments,
the percentage of women faculty members is 14%. In addition, women are
better represented at departments that do not grant graduate degrees
and in the lower ranks of the faculty." The report also finds that
"women still earn less than men, even when they have the same years
of experience and work in the same sector."
AIP's Statistical Research Center collects and maintains data, and
produces reports, on a broad range of education, workforce and demographic
issues within the physics and astronomy communities. The full text of
this report (AIP Publication No. R-430.02) is available at: http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/gendertrends.html.
Other Statistical Research Center reports can be found at http://www.aip.org/statistics/.