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Exploring gender imbalance among STEM doctoral degree recipients (Issue brief) (Gillen & Tanenbaum 2014)

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Gillen, A., & Tanenbaum, C. (2014, September). Exploring gender imbalance among STEM doctoral degree recipients (Issue brief). Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.


  • The study’s main objective was to accurately identify the nature of gender imbalances in the receipt of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees, specifically isolating imbalances at the doctoral level.
  • Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the authors calculated the ratio of women to men earning doctoral degrees by field, controlling for the number who completed an undergraduate degree in the same field (called “prepared” students).
  • The study found that, overall, men are overrepresented in 76 percent of doctoral fields. This means that, after controlling for the number of students who complete an undergraduate degree in a given field, more men than women are completing doctoral degrees in the same field. However, there is slightly less gender imbalance of prepared students earning doctoral degrees in all STEM fields than in non-STEM fields, even though the absolute number of men receiving STEM doctoral degrees is higher.
  • The authors suggest that because female undergraduate STEM majors persist from undergraduate to graduate levels at almost the same rate (90 percent as often) as men, gender imbalance must be addressed earlier in the academic pipeline to address overall disparities in the receipt of STEM doctoral degrees.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2015