Women far behind men in engineering, exact sciences PHDs

For every seven men with doctoral degrees in engineering, one woman holds the same qualification; in biological sciences, however, women are a majority.

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November 10, 2011 05:35
2 minute read.
Scientist at work (illustrative)

Scientist 311. (photo credit: Marretao22/Wikimedia Commons)

For every seven men who earn doctoral degrees in the fields of engineering, only one woman has reached the same achievement, according to a new survey by the National Council for Research and Development in the Science and Technology Ministry.

According to the survey, the ratio of men to women who earn a PhD in mathematics, statistics, computer sciences and the physical sciences is three to one. But in the biological sciences women are a majority.

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Prof. Miriam Erez, head of the ministry’s Council for the Advancement of Women in Science, said on Wednesday that the reason for the low representation of women studying for a doctorate in the exact sciences results from less motivation, expectations and social stereotypes.

The share of women studying engineering at the bachelor’s degree level is low, even though studies show that there are no significant differences in IQ level. Girls are more interested in careers that involve contact with other people, while boys prefer more technical fields, she said.

In addition, social stereotypes strengthen the separation between “male and female professions” and influence their choices at a time when their self-identity is being formed.

But Erez said she was optimistic about changes that are likely to raise the share of women in the exact sciences and engineering. Biomedical engineering, medical informatics and biotechnology now include many more women.

As social networks dramatically grow in use by the public, they combine social and technical fields and raise more interest among women.

“Even mechanical engineering no longer require one to get dirty with lubricants, and researchers in the field develop robots for medicine and computer applications,” Erez said.

Women in these new fields serve as role models for girls and inspire them to try new subjects in school, she added.

According to the 2010 report of the World Economic Forum, Israel is listed in 15th place among 134 countries in the measurement of the gap between women and men.

The gaps are smallest in Northern Europe. The US is rated in 20th place.

Israel, said Erez, still has a long way to go to reduce the gaps between men and women and especially in the choice of scientific and technological fields.

According to data collected by the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2009 there were 33,600 male PhD holders compared to 13,000 women.


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