A depressing new report came out this week about minority and female representation in the faculty ranks of the top 100 departments in 15 science and engineering disciplines. (They included social sciences in this report, which didn’t help as much as you might think.)

A couple of data points:

  • “There are few minority full professors in the physical sciences and engineering disciplines studied; the highest percentage of all URMs combined among full professors is less than 5% (chemical engineering).”
  • “URM [under-represented minority] women faculty, especially “full” professors, are almost nonexistent in physical sciences and engineering departments at research universities.”
  • “in 2005, 16.7% of the students graduating with a B.S. in chemistry were URMs, but in 2007, only 3.9% of faculty at the top 100 chemistry departments were URMs. For females, those data are 51.7% and 13.7%, respectively.”

Their conclusions are much the same as other studies published over the years:

“A cycle is perpetuated. Minorities are less likely to enter and remain in science and engineering when they lack mentors and role models. In most science and engineering disciplines, the percentage of URMs among faculty recently hired is not comparable to that of recent minority Ph.D.s. and is far below that of recent BS recipients. This results in fewer minority faculty to act as role models for minority students….If minority professors are not hired, treated fairly, and retained, minority students perceive that they will experience the same. This will not encourage them to persist in that discipline.”

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Entomologist. Educator. Writer. NERD.


  1. Perhaps minorities and women are simply less likely than white males to see academic life as attractive. It doesn’t seem reasonable to assume that minorities, women, and white males are all equally motivated by the same factors in choosing a career path.

  2. I don’t think very many graduate students of *any* race find life as a faculty member very attractive right now, frankly.
    None of the grad students I work with want to get on the tenure track.
    Having said that–

    When you notice that no one on the faculty looks like you, you start to wonder why. Decades of research backs the conclusions in this study up–students need role models to persist.

  3. @Michael

    An easy way to test the hypothesis would be to compare hires to applications… But I bet it’s not a question of finding academic less attractive.

    I can’t offer a precise reference, but I remember reading a study documenting a dramatic bias that is likely to have huge consequences to get tenure: to reach the same level of “fame”, females scientists have to publish six times more than their male counterparts.

  4. […] at 2:23 (College/University, Physical impairments, Work / Employment, invisible disabilities) Bug Girl is citing a new report (pdf download link), “A National Analysis of Minorities in Science and […]

  5. […] published to explain these disparate numbers: 1) Lack of role models (reference – pdf; shoutout to Bug Girl’s Blog) 2) Traditional gender roles (reference – subscription […]

Comments are closed.