Women and geoscience degrees.

There are some new statistics from the AGI regarding women earning science degrees – and more specifically geoscience degrees. The general upward trend makes me quite happy, as far as geoscience degrees being conferred. There looks like there’s been a teeny dip in the percentage of undergraduate degrees over the past couple of years, but there could be quite a few reasons for that. We’re above 40% now, which I find heartening. Geology isn’t the old boys club that it used to be, even if you can’t necessarily tell that quite yet if you work in oil and gas.

What I thought was interesting is actually in the bar graphs. The greatest percentage change in degrees conferred for women was non-science and engineering degrees first, then geoscience. So we’re making bigger gains than the other science/engineering fields. But if you look at the two percentage graphs below it, the comparing 1993 to 2006, it’s also interesting. Some fields have taken a pretty big bump, but the only two where women are getting more than 50% of the degrees are social sciences and non-science and engineering fields. Considering that more women attend college than men (in 2006 the New York Times reported that men were down to 42% of college attendees), we’re still not getting an even distribution across the fields. But who knows if we ever will. I think for now, just seeing that more women are going in to these fields is encouraging.

Looking at the graphs a second time, there is one other thing that struck me. For the most part, women are doing pretty darn good at getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Except in geoscience and engineering, there’s still a major (at least 10 point) gap between master’s degrees and PhDs, even though we are getting more PhDs than we used to, by a lot. It’s not like we haven’t noticed this before. A brief cruise through the feminist stylings of the amazing Dr. Isis provide some lovely anecdotes regarding why being cursed with ladyparts make life rough if you want a PhD.

But, I’m hoping that if we’re seeing increases in other degrees, some day we’ll see the institutional adjustments that will let women pursue their doctorates, rather than being forced to choose between advanced education and producing the next generation of li’l scientists.

Personally, I’m just going for a Master’s right now. Not because of any sort of external difficulty, but mostly because I have no idea what research I’d even want to do for a PhD. Some day, it’d be nice to get to wear the big-girl “doctor” pants, but I definitely need some focus first.

And since I’m mentioning graduate school, here’s a random aside: Why is it that of the three colleges that I attended, the only one that’s charging me for official transcripts (to the tune of $10.25 each) is the one I attended for only one semester? Grr, I say. Grr.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: