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Making Some Progress

March 16, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 11

The 2008 survey of top 50 chemistry departments reveals modest signs of progress in the representation of women on chemistry faculties, but that should not inspire complacency (C&EN, Dec. 22, 2008, page 40).

The number of departments with 10 or more women remains unchanged at three, though there are now 10 departments with more than six women, which is one more than last year, and 10 departments with exactly six women, four more than last year. Thus, although the "w-index" (w = No. of departments with ≥w women) is stuck at six, there is the potential for it to move upward in the near future.

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Discounting the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, which is not a chemistry department, there are now four departments with 25% or more women, compared with only one last year. There are also fewer departments in which women are poorly represented: There are only three with less than 10% women, compared with five last year. And the number of departments with two or fewer women has diminished 40%, to only six.

Nearly 16% of professors in top 50 chemistry departments are women. This is an all-time-high but remains significantly less than the percent of chemistry doctorates earned by women, 38.4% in 2006. It is notable that in 1975 only 2.2% of all chemistry faculty were women, whereas women earned 10.4% of the doctorates. So although women are much better represented on chemistry faculties today than they were three decades ago, the gap between their representation and availability is actually widening.

Robin Garrell
Los Angeles



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