Executive summary

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering provides statistical information about the participation of these three groups in science and engineering (S&E) education and employment. Its primary purpose is to serve as a statistical abstract with no endorsement of or recommendations about policies or programs. The findings of this report are relevant to policymakers and program managers interested in the representation of these groups in the U.S. S&E enterprise.

Key takeaways

  • In 2018, more women than men were enrolled in college, both in 2-year and 4-year institutions. The share of undergraduate students who were Hispanic or Latino increased from 2016 to 2018 but the share of Blacks or African Americans declined during that time.
  • Although the overall number of S&E graduate students declined between 2016 and 2018, the share of Hispanic or Latino students increased. However, the shares of both American Indian or Alaska Native students and Black or African American students remained the same.
  • Of all S&E degrees awarded in 2018, women earned about half of bachelor’s degrees, 44.7% of master’s degrees, and 41.2% of doctorate degrees. However, the proportion of degrees awarded to women varied by field—female S&E degree holders were most prevalent in psychology, biological sciences, and agricultural sciences and the least prevalent in computer sciences and engineering.
  • Both the share and number of S&E degrees awarded to underrepresented minorities—Hispanics or Latinos, Blacks or African Americans, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—increased over the past decade.
  • Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have an important role in preparing Black or African American students for S&E doctoral programs. Indeed, 23.2% of graduates who earned an S&E doctorate degree between 2015 and 2019 earned their bachelor’s degree from an HBCU.
  • In 2018, women from underrepresented minority groups—Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—earned more than half of the S&E degrees awarded to their respective racial and ethnic groups at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels.
  • The unemployment rate is lower overall for scientists and engineers than for the U.S. labor force. Scientists and engineers are individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree and an S&E or S&E-related degree or occupation. However, scientists and engineers with one or more disabilities had an unemployment rate greater than that of the U.S. labor force.
  • Scientists and engineers generally have higher salaries when working in S&E occupations than in other occupations. However, female scientists and engineers have lower median salaries than do their male counterparts in most broad occupational groups.
  • The share of academic doctoral positions held by women with science, engineering, and health doctoral degrees increased from 26.4% in 1999 to 38.5% in 2019. Underrepresented minorities also hold a larger share of academic positions than they did in 1999, although their share remains small (8.9%) and is considerably lower than their share of the population.
  • A larger share of S&E doctorate recipients with disability than those without disability reported that their primary graduate school funding was personal or family funds, in particular, loans. In addition, a smaller share of those with disability received research assistantships, traineeships, or internships, or had fellowships, scholarships, or grants than did those without disability.