Supporting the Retention and Advancement of Women in the Atmospheric Sciences

There is substantial evidence that women, as a group, continue to be underrepresented in senior academic ranks (e.g., full professor, dean) within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research fields. In part, this is because women faculty tend to be younger than their male counterparts, a situation resulting from the recent increase in the number of women science and engineering graduates. However, as summarized in a 2003 National Science Foundation (NSF) report, many studies report that even after controlling for this and other factors affecting promotions, women are less likely to appear in senior academic ranks. Underrepresentation of women in faculty ranks is especially noticeable within geosciences, where they constituted only 16% of overall faculty in 2005–06. At the same time, about 41% of the graduate students in these fields were female.

Despite growth in both the number and percentage of women entering the field, women in atmospheric sciences are among the most underrepresented in tenure-track positions. In a 2004 study, O’Connell and Holmes report that, based on self-reported specialties within the geosciences, atmospheric sciences and meteorology ranked last in the percentage of females in tenure-track positions at Ph.D.-granting institutions. The recent National Research Council report on research-based doctorate-granting institutions gives the mean percentage of female faculty in these departments as 15.1%, with a range of 0%–50% and a standard deviation of 8%.

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