Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Gender Gap

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Gender Gap

Article excerpt

Since the early 1980s, the American Council on

Education (ACE) has been collecting and

disseminating educational data annually on

racial and ethnic minorities. Among its findings

in 1996 is that students of color have posted

significant gains in college enrollment and the

number of degrees they earned -- yet the picture

is decidedly mixed for different racial and ethnic

minority groups.

One thing is certain -- say the report's coauthors

Deborah J. Carter, associate director of ACE's Office of

Minorities in Higher Education and Senior Scholar Dr.

Reginald Wilson -- the academic gains were largely

bolstered by the success of minority women.

But in no racial or ethnic group is the gap as glaring

as it is between African-American men and

African-American women in the number of degrees

earned at each of the three degree levels, maintain

Carter and Wilson.

In earlier years, ACE studies have made note of

the gender-different degree rates among African

Americans. Dr. William Trent, an expert on the

impact of race and equity issues on educational

attainment, sounded an alarm in the 1991 book,

"College in Black and White," when he concluded

that special attention needed to be focused on the

academic careers of Black males and that gender-different

degree rates must be monitored.

Fluctuating Numbers

In the early 90s Trent, a professor of sociology and

educational policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,

wrote of the approaching "feminization of

education among Blacks" at the bachelor's and master's

degree levels. Says Trent: "The ramifications of such

a trend has implications for mate selection and

community structure as well as occupational

distribution implications given the interaction

of racism and sexism in employment."

Based on the findings of the National Study

of Black College Students, Trent found that

Black women outpaced Black men on all three

degree levels for the academic years 1975-76

and 1980-81. In 1975-76, for example, Black

women earned 32,952 or 7.9 percent of

bachelor's degrees, while Black men earned

25,301 or 5.0 percent. Also that year, Black

women earned 12,301 or 8.5 percent of the

master's degrees, while men earned 7,611 or

4.6 percent. In that same year, however, the

number of Ph.D.s awarded to Black men, 743,

exceeded those going to Black women, 426.

Degrees awarded for the 1980-81 academic

year follow a similar pattern. As in earlier

years, Black women earned fewer Ph.D.

degrees -- 571 -- while Black men earned 694.

Science and Engineering Lag

In comparison to earlier years, the degree

rates across disciplines for Black men today are

"worrisome," say some educators, especially

when it comes to doctoral degrees. According

to the National Research Council's Survey of

Earned Doctorates, the number of Ph.D.s

awarded to African-American men increased in

1995 to 482, up from, 409 in 1994. African-American

women, on the other hand, earned

805 doctorates in 1995 up from 686 the

previous year.

While their numbers are improving,

minority women, like all women, continue

to lag behind in the number of Ph.D.s

earned in science and engineering, according to

the National Action Council for Minorities in

Engineering, Inc. (NACME) and the National

Research Council.

According to NACME, the substantial

gender gap that exists in the science and

engineering professions widens among women of

color--with African-American, Latina and

Native-American women having by far the

lowest participation rates. …

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