prior to a search. Others suggest the appropriate pool should be the proportion of women in the postdoctorate pool. Still others argue that the pool should be based on the proportion of women earning PhDs in top-tier institutions. As discussed in Box 3-1, there is currently no consensus on how to measure the “pool” of qualified candidates.

At the University of California, Berkeley, “doctoral pool” is defined in a two-step process. First, the average proportion of US residents earning PhDs in the relevant field in the 5 years prior is obtained from the National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates, which publishes these figures annually. Second, the pool is narrowed by considering only those PhDs awarded at the 35 institutions producing the most PhDs at top-quartile-rated doctoral programs, based on the National Research Council’s Research Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change report.66 Indeed, research on hiring shows that faculty at Research I universities received their doctorate degrees from a very select group of institutions,67 and that narrowing the institutional filter further may provide a more realistic picture of actual hiring practice. This issue is discussed in more detail later in this chapter in the Chemistry Case Study section. Perception of career opportunities is another factor affecting the sex distribution of the academic job applicant pool; some research indicates that women mathematics and science graduate students perceive academic careers more negatively than do men.68

Applicant data on biology and the health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001-2004 show that women made up 47% of recent biology and health sciences doctorates from the top-quartile of graduate schools, but only 29% of applicants for tenure-track faculty positions (Figure 3-4). In physical science, mathematics, computer science, and engineering disciplines, women made up 21% of recent PhDs from those top schools and 15% of applicants (Figure 3-5). Minority-group women, in contrast with white women, are present in the University of California, Berkeley, applicant pool in the same proportion as in the PhD pool, but are not represented proportionately among assistant professors.


National Research Council (1995). Research Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


For example, see VJ Kuck, CH Marzabadi, SA Nolan, and J Buckner (2004). Analysis by gender of the doctoral and postdoctoral institutions of faculty members at the top-fifty ranked chemistry departments. Journal of Chemical Education 81(3):356-363.


ALW Sears (2003). Image problems deplete the number of women in academic applicant pools. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 9:169-181; D Barbezat (1992). The market for new PhD economists. Journal of Economic Education 23:262-276.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement