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Women & Minorities Progress in S&E Field Limited

January 24, 1997

Women and minorities continue to take fewer high-level mathematics and science courses in high school; earn fewer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in science and engineering (S&E); and remain less likely to be employed in S&E jobs than white males.

Those are the conclusions of a new government report, Women, Minorities and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering 1996. The National Science Foundation (NSF) report reveals progress as well as signs of continued underrepresentation. Among the report's findings:

  • Minorities (except Asians) remain a small proportion of U.S. scientists and engineers. African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans as a group were 23 percent of the U.S. population, but 6 percent of the S&E labor force in 1993.
  • Among 1994 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) takers, fewer women (13 percent) than men (31 percent) intended to pursue natural science, mathematics, or engineering fields. Yet, women's grades among first-year college students planning S&E majors are higher than men's.
  • A substantial gap in mean salary -- $13,200 -- exists between men and women with S&E doctorates. Much of the gap is due to differences in age and S&E field.
  • African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are taking more high school science classes than in the past. The percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics taking chemistry and physics doubled between 1982 and 1992.
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) continue to play an important role in undergraduate education, despite the growing diversity of the nation's campuses. Thirty percent of black students receiving S&E bachelor's degrees in 1993 received them from HBCUs.

Copies of the report can be obtained through NSF's home page at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/stats.htm