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Trends: Women in Geosciences

While the percentages of females earning bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in the geosciences has increased substantially over the past few decades, the numbers still do not represent an equivalent slice of the overall population. These percentages vary by degree level and discipline.

 

The number of women in geoscience majors has increased steadily over the forty years (see graph below). However, according to the National Science Foundation (2015), women received 57% of all bachelor’s degrees in 2012 and 50% of science and engineering degrees. Thus, women are still underrepresented in the geosciences and related fields. It is important to note that women’s participation varies greatly between fields, with women earning over half the bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences (59%) and far fewer in fields such as physics (19%) and earth sciences (39%).

Source: National Science Foundation 2015 Report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering

 

FemalePercentGeoscienceEnrollment

 

 

Sarah collecting a glacier moraine sample on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada

Sarah collecting a glacier moraine sample on Baffin Island, Arctic Canada

Dr. Guertin on board the USS Thomas Jefferson
Dr. Guertin on board the USS Thomas Jefferson

Similar trends exist when looking at the percentage of women earning doctoral degrees in science and engineering and when examining the labor market: women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce they are underrepresented in many STEM occupations (e.g. women represent only 12% of civil engineers and 28% of environmental scientists). This lack of diversity has implications for innovation, limiting the human potential applied toward science and sustainability. Given that many of the most urgent and important challenges facing society are scientific (e.g. energy, climate change, water availability, disease, and natural resource forecasting), this lack of diversity must be addressed.

Source: Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, 2014 Women in the Labor Force

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