Do Babies Matter in Science?

Federal investigators of Title IX, the law that forbids sexual discrimination in education, have only recently discovered that there may be a problem for women in science.

Investigators for the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy have been inspecting several campuses for potential Title IX violations in mathematics, science, and engineering departments (The Chronicle, January 20, 2006). The New York Times revisited the issue this summer and found that, “So far, these Title IX compliance reviews haven’t had much visible impact on campuses beyond inspiring a few complaints from faculty members.”

Evidence of the problems women face pursuing careers in academic science shouldn’t be hard to find.

Look around the campus of any large research university. In most humanities and social-science disciplines, departments are blooming with female graduate students where there would have been few 30 years ago. But in math, engineering, and the physical sciences, the numbers remain embarrassingly low. In 2006, women received 28 percent of the doctorates awarded in the physical sciences, including computer science and math, and only 20 percent of those awarded in engineering. But that is great progress compared with 20 years ago when the numbers were often too small to register statistically.

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