Thursday, June 2, 2016
The participation rate of women in geoscience degree programs has continued its slow decline over the last decade. Undergraduate participation rates have leveled off around the 40% level, while graduate participation rates continue to drift down to about 42%. These are compared to historical highs of 49% for undergraduates in 2004 and 47% for graduate students in 2008. Though participation rates fell at the undergraduate level, because of continued enrollment growth, 1,200 more women were geoscience majors in 2015 than 2014. This year also marks the convergence of the percentage of degrees being awarded to women. After a 5-10 year run with graduate degrees having a higher percentage of female recipients, this year, all degree levels converged in on the 40-41% level. This is partially reflecting the slow convergence of female participation rates in enrollments. One factor that has historically been indicated for higher female participation rate at the graduate level has been the ability for the geosciences to effectively recruit students from other disciplines, namely biology, chemistry, geography, and english as new graduate students. It is unclear if this trend has changed and is impacting gender distributions.
We also examined the gender enrollment rates for graduates and undergraduates at U.S. institutions. Interestingly, the mode for undergraduate programs was 31-40% female, while the mode for graduate programs as 41-50% female. In both cases, well over 25% of all programs are reporting a majority of female students enrolled.