A professor at the University of Oklahoma has compiled data that
has piqued curiosities for some time, but has never before been
confirmed. Said data reflects the under-representation of female and
minority faculty members at top research universities.
Donna Nelson, associate professor of chemistry, conducted a
national survey of department chairs at the top 50 departments in
each of 14 science and engineering disciplines, as ranked by the
National Science Foundation. The information gathered included
demographic data on tenure and tenure-track faculty, desegregated by
gender, race and rank - information never before compiled.
Nelson, who has been a professor of chemistry for 20 years, said
because she had worked in chemistry her entire life, she knew
firsthand what the environment was like.
And it's horrible, she said. We really are behind the rest of the
world in science, and this is extremely important right now because
women and minorities both are dropping out of science nationally.
And all of these organizations say that they're investigating why,
but they really don't want to know why because it's really sort of
Nelson's research shows that while there are fewer women and
minorities in these positions, and women hold the lowest academic
rank, their doctorate attainment is quite high.
Anytime you have this huge PhD attainment, there's this huge
hiring pool, she said. But then very few women are actually in those
positions. That tells you there's a problem.
Furthermore, her research shows that in the top 50 computer
science departments, there are no black, Hispanic or Native American
tenured or tenure-track women faculty.
Nelson said she faced obstacles and retaliation, and also
received some pressure not to report the data from within the
American Chemical Society, but this did not keep her from publishing
the information. Because of this, Nelson received last week the
National Woman of Courage award from the National Organization for
According to her research, in chemistry, math and some other
disciplines last year, more than half of the bachelor's degrees were
received nationally by young women. Yet in math, the faculty is only
8.9 percent female.
So you have more than half of the degrees going to young women,
but less than 10 percent of the faculty is women, she said. These
young women are in there with very few role models, very few female
Nelson will speak Thursday on Capitol Hill at the invitation of
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to
address this issue and that of Title 9, a law that guarantees in
educational institutions women will receive equal treatment to men.
Wyden requested the Government Accounting Organization to study the
larger agencies, including the NSF and National Institutes of
Health, to see if this law was being implemented, or, doing what
it's supposed to do. …