In Certain Science and Engineering Fields, Sex Diversity Among Graduate Students Is Stagnating. In Others, It’s Getting Worse.
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Written by Jason Kao

The percentage of female graduate students in science and engineering fields at Columbia has remained virtually unchanged since 1998. However, this stagnation shrouds a more complicated picture underneath.

Some fields have seen a large increase in the representation of female graduate students. From 2003 to 2016, mathematics and statistics quickly reached and maintained sex parity.

But other fields have seen the reverse trend: a widening gap. During that same time frame, sex disparities have grown significantly in the physical sciences, especially in physics.

Despite this stagnation, The Eye’s analysis, which includes 30 fields in seven broad areas, found that the balance between the sexes in individual fields tended to align with their larger areas of study, and that the push toward parity in certain fields has been masking other fields’ trouble in narrowing their sex gap.

Our analysis extends from 1994, the earliest year that such institution- and field-specific data was available from the National Science Foundation, to 2016, the most recent. (Columbia did not report data for several fields between 2001 and 2003. See the methodology at the end of this article for further details.) In particular, we looked at the sex field, which offered the options “female” and “male” in the survey.