More Women Earning Science Degrees


As a high school chemistry and physics teacher, I devote my very being to ensuring that every young woman with the desire and talent has the opportunity to pursue her scientific career of choice. So, when the results of a study coauthored by Erica Blom, Brian Cadena and Benjamin Keys last month tout that every 1% rise in unemployment causes a 2% increase in the number of women pursuing science degrees, I should be ecstatic. But I’m not. On the contrary, I’m concerned. Yes, ostensibly it’s good that more women are entering a very male-dominated scientific world. My question is, though, what happens to these women when they finish their degrees and enter the workforce? Do they become the living embodiment of the American dream, or do they soon discover that the American dream is just as elusive as ever?

Case in point. Approximately 50% of all life science majors are women, yet only about 28% of all life science jobs are filled by women, according to statistics given me by Janet Koster, executive director and CEO of American Women in Science (AWIS). Though in the past this drop-off may have been attributed to women leaving the workforce to start families, there is very little evidence that women today are choosing to do so. The exponential growth in the childcare industry alone attests to the fact that mothers today are remaining in the workforce after pregnancy. Further, academia, a traditional career path for those with doctoral degrees, “is not hiring tenure-type professors the way they used to,” explains Koster. “Those jobs are a few and far between, and so now you have somebody that’s coming out on the other end [and] their education post-docs are getting longer — some have done a second post-doc — [and she's] in her —> Read More