by Heath Brown:
The recent summary by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) of research by the Council of Graduate Schools shows great hope for gender equity in the academy. For eight straight years, women earned more graduate degrees than men in the United States. Women earned 52% of the doctorates and 57% of masters degrees. When I was the Research Director at the Council of Graduate Schools we saw the early signs of this trend and excitedly awaited this point.
These trends are hopeful for better gender equity in the professoriate and research. However, three cautions are worth noting. First, gaps in some fields of study persist. Fields like engineering and math remain overwhelmingly male. Men earned nearly three-quarters of doctoral degrees in engineering and mathematics, continuing historic patterns of under-representation of women.
Second, in 2018, our society has come to better recognize that gender identity is more than dichotomous. National data collection should better reflect this reality by providing more disaggregated enrollment and degree data. This won’t be an easy change for institutions with strong traditions and well-established survey design practices. Nevertheless, the time has come for higher education research to make appropriate changes in order to better understand the challenges faced by the trans community in the academy.
Third, and most importantly, the changes in the gender composition of graduate programs has not happened on its own. Concerted efforts by universities and the federal government — such as the ADVANCE program administered by the National Science Foundation — have provided the resources necessary to compel greater equity throughout the academy. The recent book by Duke University professor, Deondra Rose, Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2018) documents the way federal lawmakers have passed major laws since the 1950s, such as federal aid programs and Title IX, to advance women at universities and reduce discrimination. Interesting, Dr. Rose finds that the benefits of these programs are not just found in educational achievement, women’s political participation has also improved notably over the last several decades.
Celebrations are warranted when indicators of progress and equity are found. Yet policy makers and university administrators must remain vigilant to make sure the direction of this trend persists into the future and that fields with continued imbalances are better addressed.
About the author:
Heath Brown, Associate Professor of Public Policy, John Jay College, CUNY
E-mail Address: email@example.com
Heath Brown is an associate professor of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. He has worked at the US Congressional Budget Office as a Research Fellow, at the American Bus Association as a Policy Assistant, and at the Council of Graduate Schools as Research and Policy Director.
In addition to his research, Brown is Reviews Editor for Interest Groups & Advocacy and hosts a podcast called New Books in Political Science, www.newbooksinpoliticalscience.com, where he interviews new authors about their political science publications. He is also an expert contributor to The Hill as well as to The Atlantic magazine and American Prospect magazine.