Educational Degrees and Instructional Staff

The number of post-secondary educational degrees awarded to women rose from just over half a million in the 1969–1970 academic year to nearly 1.7 million in 2004–2005. Although the number of degrees earned by men has also increased, the rate of growth among women has been much faster; therefore, the proportion of degrees earned by women has risen dramatically. In 1969–1970, men earned a majority of every type of post-secondary degree, while in 2004–2005, women earned more than half of all associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees and nearly half of all first professional and doctoral degrees. The most significant increase has been in the proportion of first professional degree earners who are women, which jumped from 5.3 percent in 1969–1970 to 49.8 percent in 2004–2005. In 2004–2005, the total number of women earning their first professional degree (43,440) was 23 times greater than in 1969–1970 (1,841).

Although sex disparities in education have almost disappeared, there is still a disparity among instructional staff in degree-granting institutions. In fall 2005, only 40.6 percent of full-time instructional faculty were women. While women accounted for more than half of all full-time instructors and lecturers, they made up only 25.1 percent of professors and less than 39 percent of associate professors.

Among female instructors, a significant racial and ethnic disparity exists as well: 78.1 percent of all female instructional staff were non-Hispanic White. This disparity is even more pronounced among higher-level staff, such as professors, where non-Hispanic White women composed 86.8 percent of full-time female staff, compared to 4.7 percent for non-Hispanic Black women and 2.6 percent for Hispanic women (data not shown).

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