NCSES - National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

02/12/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/12/2019 14:28

Number of Women with U.S. Doctorates in Science, Engineering, or Health Employed in the United States More Than Doubles since 1997

by Daniel J. Foley, Lance A. Selfa, and Karen H. Grigorian

In 2017, an estimated 1,103,200 individuals worldwide held a research doctoral degree in a science, engineering, or health (SEH) field that was earned at a U.S. academic institution, an increase of over 55,000 doctorate recipients since 2015. A total of 967,500 (88%) were residing in the United States, and over one-third of them were women (338,400). An additional 135,700 were living abroad, one-fourth (33,700) of whom were women (table 1). Among those doctorate recipients living outside the United States in 2017, a majority (54%) lived in Asia and nearly 20% lived in Europe (including Russia) (figure 1 and table 1).

Residence location Total Men Women Employment status Employment sector
Employed Unemployeda Not in the
labor forceb
Educational
institution
Business or
industry
Government

D = suppressed to avoid disclosure of confidential information. S = suppressed for reliability; coefficient of variation exceeds publication standards.

SEH = science, engineering, and health.

a Unemployed includes individuals who were not working during the survey reference week but had been seeking work in the 4 weeks prior to February 2017 or who were on layoff from their job.
b Not in the labor force includes retirees and individuals neither working nor looking for work in the 4 weeks prior to February 2017.
c Europe includes Russia.
d The United States is listed separately and is not included in the total for North America.
e Central America includes Mexico.

NOTES: Residence location is based on reported living location on 1 February 2017. The worldwide and non-U.S. residing population totals include an estimated 600 individuals who were living abroad, but in an unspecified location. Educational institution includes 4-year colleges or universities, medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals or medical centers), university-affiliated research institutes, 2-year colleges, community colleges, technical institutes, precollege institutions, and other educational institutions. Business or industry includes private for profit, private nonprofit, self-employed or business owners in incorporated or nonincorporated business, and employers not broken out separately. Government includes U.S. federal, state, and local government and non-U.S. government at any level. Detail may not sum to total due to rounding.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 2017.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Worldwide 1,103,200 731,100 372,150 938,250 19,050 145,900 428,650 421,350 88,250
U.S. residing population 967,500 629,100 338,400 815,100 17,100 135,300 349,200 390,300 75,600
New England 80,150 51,100 29,050 69,350 1,500 9,300 30,050 36,350 2,950
Middle Atlantic 133,050 83,750 49,300 114,650 2,100 16,300 51,200 58,300 5,150
East North Central 118,250 78,200 40,000 100,250 1,700 16,250 51,050 43,450 5,750
West North Central 54,600 35,600 18,950 46,350 600 7,650 25,500 18,400 2,450
South Atlantic 189,550 119,800 69,700 157,950 3,200 28,350 62,850 63,200 31,900
East South Central 32,500 21,600 10,900 27,200 550 4,750 16,700 7,600 2,900
West South Central 76,550 52,600 23,950 64,700 1,700 10,200 31,350 28,800 4,500
Mountain 68,000 45,600 22,400 54,550 1,050 12,400 23,550 24,500 6,450
Pacific and U.S. territories 214,900 140,750 74,100 180,050 4,700 30,100 56,900 109,600 13,550
Non-U.S. residing population 135,700 102,000 33,700 123,150 1,950 10,600 79,450 31,050 12,650
Europec 25,250 17,100 8,100 22,950 400 1,850 12,450 7,900 2,600
Asia 73,400 57,050 16,350 68,050 950 4,400 47,100 15,100 5,850
North Americad 12,350 8,950 3,400 10,600 200 1,600 6,750 2,950 900
Central Americae 4,500 3,700 800 4,200 S 250 2,550 1,000 650
Caribbean 750 350 400 700 D S 350 200 150
South America 8,750 6,800 1,950 7,600 150 1,000 4,850 1,500 1,250
Africa 5,700 4,550 1,150 4,950 100 600 2,750 1,450 800
Oceania 4,350 2,950 1,400 3,600 100 700 2,400 800 400

The labor force participation of U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders residing in the United States was 86%, compared with 92% among those living abroad (table 1). This difference is due in part to a larger proportion of retirement-aged (65 to 75 years) U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders residing in the United States than abroad (22% versus 15%). The business or industry sector employed the largest share of U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders residing in the United States (48%), whereas most jobs held by those working abroad were in the education sector (65%).

These findings are from the 2017 Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR)-a unique source of information about the educational background, occupational achievements, and career movements of U.S.-trained scientists and engineers in the United States and abroad. The SDR, along with several other surveys conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation, provide data on the number and representation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in post-secondary SEH enrollment, degree awards, and employment outcomes. This InfoBrief uses data from the 1997 and 2017 survey cycles to highlight the increased prevalence of women with U.S.-earned SEH doctorate degrees in the U.S. workforce.

Trends in Science and Engineering Occupations

Currently, more than one-third (35%) of the U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders residing and working in the United States are women, compared with less than one-fourth (23%) 20 years ago. The number of U.S.-trained female SEH doctorate holders residing and working in the United States has more than doubled during this period, from 119,350 in 1997 to 287,250 in 2017 (table 2). In 1997, men outnumbered women in all broad science and engineering (S&E) occupational categories. However, by 2017, the number of female psychologists (44,050) was higher than the number of male psychologists (30,150), with women now making up almost 60% of all psychologists.

Occupation 1997 2017
Total
employed
Male Female Total
employed
Male Female
Number % Number % Number % Number %

S&E = science and engineering. SEH = science, engineering, and health.

a S&E-related occupations include health-related occupations, S&E managers, S&E pre-college teachers, S&E technicians and technologists, and other S&E occupations. In 2003, NCSES revised the taxonomy for these occupations, which partially accounts for the differences in population estimates between 1997 and 2017.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

All occupations 518,450 399,100 77.0 119,350 23.0 815,100 527,850 64.8 287,250 35.2
S&E occupations 388,900 302,150 77.7 86,750 22.3 568,650 380,400 66.9 188,200 33.1
Biological, agricultural and other life scientist 97,550 71,350 73.1 26,200 26.9 144,550 85,400 59.1 59,150 40.9
Computer scientist 25,950 22,600 87.0 3,350 13.0 54,750 45,450 83.0 9,300 17.0
Mathematical scientist 19,400 16,250 83.7 3,150 16.3 38,350 27,600 72.0 10,750 28.0
Physical and related scientist 72,250 63,100 87.4 9,150 12.6 83,300 63,950 76.7 19,350 23.3
Psychologist 60,650 32,200 53.1 28,450 46.9 74,150 30,150 40.6 44,050 59.4
Social scientist 43,350 31,550 72.8 11,800 27.2 65,600 36,950 56.3 28,650 43.7
Engineers 69,750 65,100 93.4 4,650 6.6 107,900 90,950 84.3 16,950 15.7
S&E-related occupationsa 29,500 18,350 62.3 11,100 37.7 97,650 56,600 58.0 41,050 42.0
Non-S&E occupations 100,100 78,600 78.5 21,500 21.5 148,800 90,800 61.0 57,950 39.0

In addition to comprising the majority of psychologists, women are also well represented among U.S-trained life scientists (that is, biological, agricultural, and other life scientists) and social scientists. In 2017, 41% of employed life scientists and 44% of employed social scientists were women, compared with their overall share of 35% among employed SEH doctorate holders. A similar pattern was seen in 1997, when 27% of employed life scientists and employed social scientists were women, compared with 23% overall among employed SEH doctorate holders. In total, nearly half (46%) of the U.S.-trained female SEH doctorate holders employed in the United States in 2017 were working as a life scientist, social scientist, or psychologist, compared with less than one-third (29%) of their male counterparts.

In contrast, U.S-trained female SEH doctorate holders traditionally have been less well represented in the four broad occupations of computer scientist, mathematical scientist, physical scientist (that is, physical and related scientist), and engineer. However, women have significantly increased their numbers and shares of employment in three of these occupations since 1997. For example, the number of female doctoral engineers more than tripled from about 4,650 (7%) of an estimated 69,750 U.S.-trained engineers in 1997 to 16,950 (16%) of the 107,900 U.S.-trained engineers in 2017. The low proportion of women among mathematical scientists also changed significantly over the past 2 decades, with the share nearly doubling from 16% in 1997 to 28% in 2017. A similar substantial gain occurred among those employed as physical scientists (13% in 1997 to 23% in 2017). Although women significantly increased their presence in engineering, physical sciences, and mathematical sciences, women's representation among computer scientists remains low and showed only a modest gain over the past 2 decades (13% in 1997 to 17% in 2017).

The increased number and share of women employed in these broad S&E occupations over the past 2 decades are associated with similar growth in the number and share of women earning research doctorate degrees from U.S. institutions in the corresponding broad SEH fields of study.

Trends in Employment Sector

The overall growth in the number and share of employed U.S.-trained female SEH doctorate holders in the United States since 1997 varied by sector of employment. The largest gain in representation was observed within the U.S. federal government, where women nearly doubled their share, increasing from 19% of all federally employed SEH doctorate holders in 1997 to 35% in 2017 (table 3). Similarly, the share of women employed in the 4-year educational institution sector increased substantially, from 25% in 1997 to 38% in 2017.

Employment sector 1997 2017
Total
employed
Male Female Total
employed
Male Female
Number % Number % Number % Number %

SEH = science, engineering, and health.

a Includes 4-year colleges or universities, medical schools (including university-affiliated hospitals or medical centers), and university-affiliated research institutes.
b Includes 2-year colleges, community colleges, technical institutes, and other precollege institutions.
c Includes those self-employed in an incorporated business, working for a for-profit company, and working for other types of employer not otherwise classified. Data from the 2017 Survey of Doctorate Recipients include non-U.S. government employers that were not educational institutions.
d Self-employed or business owner in a nonincorporated business.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

All employment sectors 518,450 399,100 77.0 119,350 23.0 815,100 527,850 64.8 287,250 35.2
Four-year educational institutiona 230,000 172,750 75.1 57,250 24.9 319,400 198,750 62.2 120,650 37.8
Other educational institutionb 16,850 9,950 59.2 6,850 40.8 29,800 14,400 48.3 15,400 51.7
Business or industry, for profitc 166,650 141,150 84.7 25,500 15.3 296,600 215,900 72.8 80,700 27.2
Business or industry, self-employed, nonincorporatedd 25,100 15,900 63.4 9,200 36.6 44,650 24,600 55.1 20,000 44.9
Business or industry, nonprofit 26,350 17,650 67.0 8,700 33.0 55,150 30,500 55.4 24,600 44.6
Federal government 38,050 30,900 81.2 7,150 18.8 51,950 33,600 64.6 18,400 35.4
State or local government 15,450 10,800 69.8 4,650 30.2 17,550 10,100 57.5 7,450 42.5

However, women's representation in the business or industry for-profit sector was low in comparison to their share overall in both 1997 (15% in this sector versus 23% overall) and in 2017 (27% in this sector versus 35% overall). In contrast, the business or industry nonprofit sector had higher shares of women (33% in 1997 to 45% in 2017).

The largest employment sectors for women with SEH doctorate degrees from a U.S. institution were the 4-year educational institution sector (57,250 in 1997 and 120,650 in 2017), followed by the business or industry for-profit sector (25,500 in 1997 and 80,700 in 2017). In contrast, although the 4-year educational institution sector was also the largest employer of U.S.-trained male SEH doctorate holders in 1997 (172,750), the business or industry for-profit sector was the largest employment sector for this group of men in 2017 (215,900).

Trends in Primary Work Activities

As the number and share of women with U.S.-earned SEH doctorate degrees residing and working in the United States increased over the years, the proportion of women involved in research and development (R&D) as their primary work activity also increased significantly. Persons engaged in R&D activities are employed U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders who report basic research, applied research, development, or design as their primary work activity-that is, more of their hours are spent on an R&D activity during a typical week than on any other work activity. Overall, in 2017, 30% of U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders performing an R&D activity as their primary work activity were women; in 1997, the proportion was 19% (table 4).

Primary work activity 1997 2017
Total
employed
Male Female Total
employed
Male Female
Number % Number % Number % Number %

SEH = science, engineering, and health.

a Derived from question A31: 'On which two activities in question A30 did you work the most hours during a typical week on this job?' Question A30 presents a selection of 14 work activities. Respondents are asked to indicate which work activities 'occupied at least 10 percent of your time during a typical work week on this job.'
b Includes health care, counseling, financial services, and legal services.
c All other primary work activities include accounting, computer programming, human resources, production, sales, quality management, or other activities not otherwise classified.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients.

Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

Primary work activity, totala 518,450 399,100 77.0 119,350 23.0 815,100 527,850 64.8 287,250 35.2
Research and development 210,850 170,150 80.7 40,700 19.3 338,500 237,550 70.2 100,950 29.8
Basic research 69,200 52,950 76.5 16,300 23.5 90,250 61,550 68.2 28,750 31.8
Applied research 100,750 81,350 80.8 19,350 19.2 159,200 107,400 67.5 51,800 32.5
Development 28,800 24,900 86.5 3,900 13.5 65,550 49,350 75.3 16,200 24.7
Design 12,100 10,950 90.4 1,150 9.6 23,500 19,250 82.1 4,200 17.9
Managing or supervising people or projects 58,550 48,150 82.2 10,400 17.8 119,050 77,550 65.1 41,500 34.9
Professional servicesb 61,100 36,850 60.3 24,250 39.7 97,450 49,750 51.0 47,700 49.0
Teaching 113,050 83,550 73.9 29,500 26.1 153,450 89,150 58.1 64,300 41.9
All other primary work activitiesc 74,900 60,450 80.7 14,500 19.3 106,650 73,850 69.2 32,800 30.8

One of the largest proportional gains for women in these R&D activities was observed among those who reported their primary work activity as development. In 1997, women made up only 14% of the U.S.-trained SEH doctorate holders reporting development as their primary work activity, with the proportion increasing to 25% in 2017. Female representation among those reporting applied research also showed a significant gain over time, from 19% in 1997 to 33% in 2017. Women also showed gains in the share reporting basic research as their primary work activity, from 24% in 1997 to 32% in 2017. Overall, in 2017, 35% of the U.S.-trained women were performing one of the four R&D activities as their primary work activity, compared with 45% of the men.

Another primary work activity with a significant increase in female representation was managing or supervising people or projects. Among the doctorate holders reporting this to be their primary work activity, the percentage that were women increased from 18% in 1997 to 35% in 2017. In 2017, an equal proportion of men and women (about 15%) reported managing or supervising people or projects as their primary activity, whereas in 1997, a slightly higher proportion of men than women were managing or supervising people or projects (12% versus 9%).

Consistent with women's employment predominately in the 4-year educational institution sector, the proportion of women reporting teaching as their primary work activity also increased markedly (26% in 1997 to 42% in 2017). In 2017, 22% of U.S.-trained female SEH doctorate recipients reported teaching as their primary work activity, compared with 17% of the men. However, in 1997, when working in a 4-year educational institution was the most common employment sector for both men and women, slightly higher percentages of men (21%) and women (25%) reported teaching as their primary work activity.

Primary Work Activities by Career Stage

In 2017, among the nearly 305,000 U.S.-trained SEH early career doctorate holders who received their doctoral degree between 2006 and 2015 and were working in the United States, 42% were women. In comparison, among the mid- and late-career doctorate holders with degrees earned before 2006, only 31% were women (table 5). Both men and women who are early career doctorate holders are more likely to report one of the four R&D activities as their primary work activity than are mid- and late-career doctorate holders. Among early career doctorate holders, 44% of women and 54% of men report a primary work activity of basic research, applied research, development, or design. Among mid- and late-career doctorate holders, 28% of women and 40% of men report being involved with R&D as their primary work activity.

Primary work activity Mid- and late-career doctorate holdera Early career doctorate holdera
Total
employed
Male Female Total
employed
Male Female
Number % Number % Number % Number %

SEH = science, engineering, and health.

a Mid- and late-career doctorate holder defined by academic year of doctorate receipt before 2006. Early career doctorate holder defined by academic year of doctorate receipt between 2006 and 2015. Academic year is defined from July 1 to June 30, with the academic year being the one including June 30.
b Derived from question A31: 'On which two activities in question A30 did you work the most hours during a typical week on this job?' Question A30 presents a selection of 14 work activities. Respondents are asked to indicate which work activities 'occupied at least 10 percent of your time during a typical work week on this job.'
c Includes health care, counseling, financial services, and legal services.
d All other primary work activities include accounting, computer programming, human resources, production, sales, quality management or other activities not otherwise classified.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 2017.

Table 5 Source Data: Excel file

Primary work activity, totalb 510,550 350,950 68.7 159,600 31.3 304,550 176,900 58.1 127,650 41.9
Research and development 186,700 141,700 75.9 45,000 24.1 151,800 95,850 63.1 55,950 36.9
Basic research 46,400 34,150 9.7 12,250 7.7 43,850 27,400 15.5 16,450 12.9
Applied research 88,950 65,300 18.6 23,650 14.8 70,250 42,100 23.8 28,150 22.0
Development 37,650 30,100 8.6 7,550 4.7 27,900 19,250 10.9 8,650 6.8
Design 13,650 12,200 3.5 1,500 0.9 9,800 7,100 4.0 2,700 2.1
Managing or supervising people or projects 88,250 60,850 17.3 27,400 17.2 30,800 16,700 9.4 14,100 11.1
Professional servicesc 70,850 38,450 11.0 32,400 20.3 26,600 11,250 6.4 15,350 12.0
Teaching 98,850 62,200 17.7 36,700 23.0 54,550 27,000 15.3 27,600 21.6
All other primary work activitiesd 65,900 47,700 13.6 18,150 11.4 40,800 26,150 14.8 14,650 11.5

Mid- and late-career doctorate holders were more likely than early career doctorate holders to be engaged in managing or supervising people or projects as their primary work activity (17% versus 10%).

Among early career doctorate holders, teaching as a primary work activity continues to be more common among woman than among men (22% versus 15%). Similarly, female early career doctorate holders were more likely than their comparison group of men to report professional services (e.g., health care, counseling, financial services, legal services) as their primary work activity (12% versus 6%). Some of these differences in primary work activities between men and women, regardless of career stage, may be associated with differences in their broad occupational categories and sectors of employment.

Data Sources, Limitations, and Availability

Data presented here are from the 2017 SDR, which collects data on individuals who earned research doctoral degrees in SEH fields from U.S. institutions. The target population of the SDR consists of all U.S.-trained SEH doctoral graduates who were younger than 76 years of age and not institutionalized or terminally ill on 1 February 2017. The SDR has been conducted since 1973 and is sponsored by NCSES and by the National Institutes of Health. The estimates in this InfoBrief are based on responses from a sample of the population and may differ from actual values because of sampling variability. As a result, apparent differences between the estimates for two or more groups may not be statistically significant. All comparative statements in this report have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90% confidence level. In addition, the estimates presented are rounded to the nearest 50, although percentage calculations are based on unrounded estimates. More information on the SDR can be found at (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctoratework/).

Notes

[1] Daniel J. Foley, Human Resources Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite W14200, Alexandria, VA 22314 ([email protected]; 703-292-7811). Lance A. Selfa and Karen H. Grigorian are with NORC at the University of Chicago.

[2] Age group estimates are generated from public use data (available at https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/datadownload/) from the National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Doctorate Recipients: 2017. A table reporting the results of the age group analysis is available upon request to the first author of this InfoBrief.

[3] The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation refreshed and more than doubled the sample size for the Survey of Doctorate Recipients in the 2015 cycle. This expanded sample allowed the survey to report employment outcomes on a larger number of fields of study and to fully represent internationally residing U.S.-trained science, engineering, and heath research doctorate holders.

[4] National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2017. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Available at https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/digest/.

[5] More information on trends in the broad fields of U.S. doctorates awarded among men and women are available through the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics' Survey of Earned Doctorates (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsf18304/datatables/tab15.htm).

[6] For the R&D activities, applied research is study directed toward gaining scientific knowledge to meet a recognized need. Basic research is study directed toward gaining scientific knowledge primarily for its own sake. Development is defined as using knowledge gained from research for the production of materials and devices. Design refers to the design of equipment, processes, structures, or models.

This SDR typology of R&D activities differs from that adopted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Frascati Manual 2015 that only identifies three types of R&D activities: basic research, applied research, and experimental development. In the Frascati Manual, design activities play a key role in the development and implementation of innovations, but they do not meet its R&D definition of creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge and to devise new applications of available knowledge. See https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/science-and-technology/frascati-manual-2015/concepts-and-definitions-for-identifying-r-amp-d_9789264239012-4-en.