Women's Health USA 2007
Photographs of women's faces

Population Characteristics

Educational Degrees
and Instructional Staff

The number of post-secondary educational degrees awarded to women rose from just over half a million in the 1969–70 academic year to more than 1.6 million in 2003–04. 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 1969–70, men earned a majority of every type of post-secondary degree, while in 2003–04, women earned more than half of all associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees and earned almost 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 1969–70 to 49.2 percent in 2003–04. In 2003–04, the total number of women earning their first professional degree (40,872) was 22 times greater than in 1969–70 (1,841).

Although sex disparities in education have almost disappeared, there is still a disparity among instructional staff in degree-granting institutions. In fall 2003, only 39.4 percent of instructional staff were women.

Among female instructors, a significant racial and ethnic disparity exists as well: 80.1 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 87.3 percent of full-time female staff, compared to 4.9 percent for non-Hispanic Black women and 2.4 percent for Hispanic women.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.