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Carleton women in physics by the numbers

Posted by Melissa on August 26, 2011

Today is Women’s Equality Day, which seems like an appropriate occasion to mention some numbers I’ve been considering on the baccalaureate origins of physics PhDs from the Survey of Earned Doctorates. Carleton College ranks 5th among liberal arts colleges (behind four Seven Sisters colleges) and 12th among all institutions (liberal arts colleges and research universities) for the number of female physics PhD recipients between 1966 and 2009. How many female physics PhDs from Carleton were there during that 44 year period? 25. This number doesn’t include astronomy or engineering PhDs, and many of our majors go into those closely-related fields. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder that when it comes to women in physics, we’re still talking small numbers.



One Response to “Carleton women in physics by the numbers”

  1. David Davis-Van Atta, '72 said

    I’ve worked a great deal with the Doctoral Records File dataset, working on questions in the undergraduate origins of doctoral recipients. Those are some nice stats from it! Good to see. It doesn’t surprise me that Carleton is prominent in women Ph.D.’s in Physics, given it’s truly spectacular record in Ph.D. production generally, and esp. so in the sciences. Given also my personal observations while at Carleton, and a Physics/Astro student, and later in IR. (Studying these kinds of things! Among other things …)

    Without having properly done the data, I am still probably on solid ground to note that Carleton’s record for women Ph.D.’s is likely to be even more impressive when computed per women undergraduate awarded the BA. This (roughly) adjusts for differences in size, some small (say Carleton compared to Mt. Holyoke or Bryn Mawr), and others vastly large (Carleton compared to US Berkely, research universities generally). When done, Carleton typically rockets up, far past the nation’s best universities, in most cases past every one of them. As I say, I’ve not properly done the data for the stats you cite, but I think it will pass the women’s colleges as well on a per capita undergraduate basis. It usually does. Swarthmore and Reed, sometimes Haverford usually rise up with us when using such proportional productivity data, being small.

    Still, your point about still small numbers is very well taken. Carleton Physics was decidedly chromosomally XY when I was there, students and definitely faculty. Deborah Fausch (’72) and Becky McGraw (’73) were the only two women majors I recall knowing. It’s better now, for sure. But STEM still has quite a ways to go.

    Thanks for the nice post!

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