As explained by DePass, the sciences are actually better than many other fields at producing doctoral degrees among women, given the number of men and women who receive undergraduate degrees in these fields. For example, engineering-related fields produce 11.5 doctoral degrees per 100 undergraduate males who receive engineering-related bachelor’s degrees, while 19.1 women receive doctoral degrees for every 100 undergraduate women who receive degrees in these fields (Flaherty 2014). Even though the overall numbers of women receiving these degrees are relatively low, the “efficiency” of degree production is higher for women than for men.
DePass also pointed to the role of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in providing pathways to STEM PhDs. As noted often at Understanding Interventions conferences, African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population and 11 percent of all undergraduate enrollments. However, they receive only 9 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees, 7 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, 6 percent in the physical sciences, 5 percent in mathematics and statistics, and only 4 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering. HBCUs constitute only 3 percent of institutions of higher education in the United States, yet they produce 19 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering awarded to Blacks in 2010 (Gasman and Nguyen, 2014). Approximately one in three Black students who earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics attended HBCUs, as did 37 percent of all Black undergraduates who received bachelor’s degrees in the physical sciences.
HBCUs also are strongly overrepresented in terms of the number of students who go on to earn PhDs, said DePass. Among Black STEM PhD recipients who earned their degrees between 2005 and 2010, more than one third were conferred their undergraduate degrees by an HBCU, and 12 percent earned their doctorates at an HBCU.