Faculty Science Positions Continue to Elude Women of Color


Kendra Hamilton

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Black Issues in Higher Education


Cox, Matthews, and Associates

Publication Date



Women and underrepresented minorities are receiving the doctorate in record numbers these days. For example, women got 45 percent and minorities 19 percent of the 39,955 doctoral degrees awarded in 2000, and both figures were all-time highs. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that senior academic women in science and engineering are almost uniformly gloomy about what's happening in their fields. Asked what's changed the most and what's changed the least in the 54 years that have passed since she first earned her degree, Dr. Jewell Plummer Cobb, the renowned cancer researcher and former president of University of California-Fullerton, takes a long pause. "Honestly," the emerita professor says from her home in New Jersey, "I think things are about the same. I haven't done a study, of course, but as I've moved around over the years, as I've traveled to conferences and talked to people and worked in this field, I've seen exceptional women who have moved to high levels, like Shirley Jackson at Rensselaer (where she's president) and a few other people. But I haven't seen what I would call a big change in the number of minority faculty women." Halfway across the country, though, Dr. Donna Nelson, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma, has done a study. It's an exhaustive look at the status of women and minorities in 14 science and engineering disciplines at the nation's top 50 departments. Her findings put flesh on the bones of Cobb's intuitive sense of the landscape in her field. Nelson says she was aghast to see that her data indicated that "when it comes to hiring, the numbers of underrepresented minority males and females of all races actually appear to be decreasing in spite of the fact that their percentage of Ph.D. attainment is increasing."


Originally published by Cox, Matthews, and Associates. HTML fulltext available through remote link.