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Featured topics include:
* funding, requirements and standards, qualifiers
* making the advising process work
* writing the dissertation and defending
* searching for a job
* learning by critique
* balancing competing needs
THE WOMAN'S GUIDE TO NAVIGATING THE PH.D. IN ENGINEERING & SCIENCE's goal is to help women overcome the stereotypes and hidden barriers they may encounter in graduate school - so that they may emerge ready for careers in the academic, corporate or public sector.
About the Authors
Dr. Barbara B. Lazarus is the associate provost for academic affairs and an adjunct professor of educational anthropology at Carnegie Mellon University. Recent publications include "Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants" (Temple University Press, 1997) and "The Equity Equation: Fostering the Advancement of Women in the Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering" (Jossey-Bass, 1996). Dr. Lazarus serves as a member of the Committee on Women's Studies in Asia, on the Advisory Committee of MentorNet, and as a board member of the Women in Engineering Programs and Advocates Network.
Lisa M. Ritter is a communications consultant at Carnegie Mellon University and the editor of the quarterly graduate newsletter on campus. She has also worked as a public relations director and coordinator of professional development seminars for graduate students.
Dr. Susan A. Ambrose is associate provost for educational development, director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, and a principal lecturer in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research interests include applying cognitive principles to education and understanding how class origin, sex, race and ethnicity, social conceptions of women, and other variables collectively influence women's life decisions and careers in engineering and science. Recent publications include "Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants" (Temple University Press, 1997) and "The New Professor's Handbook" (Anker Press, 1994). Dr. Ambrose was recently honored with an American Council on Education fellowship for the 1999-2000 academic year."
A Note from the Auhtors.
The Final Destination: After the Ph.D.
Bibliography and References.
About the Authors.
Although women at that time weren’t being formally accepted into graduate school, many did find ways to get in, usually as “special” or nondegree students. For example, in 1870 Ellen Swallow Richards applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a graduate degree in chemistry, but was instead admitted as a “special student” who was seeking a second bachelor’s degree (her first one was from Vassar). It was argued that the Chemistry Department didn’t want its first graduate degree to be awarded to a woman (Rossiter, 1982). The difficult part, it seemed, was actually being awarded a degree for the work done. One of the most infamous examples of this discrimination is the case of mathematician Christine Ladd-Franklin, who completed her dissertation in 1882 at Johns Hopkins University but was not awarded her degree until 44 years later (Rossiter, 1982). It wasn’t until 1890 that women could officially enter graduate school in the United States, and then only a handful of universities allowed them. Over the fol-lowing decades, more universities opened their doors to women doctoral students, but many barriers still remained, especially in the historically male rampart of science and engineering. This tradition of exclusion of women in these fields becomes easier to understand, however, when one examines the history of the disciplines. Even with over a century of U.S. graduate experience under our belts, women’s involvement in the academy is still relatively new, and our official acceptance into science and engineering programs infantile. In the Middle Ages, European universi-ties were created largely to teach theology, medicine, and law—professions that were not open to women. There were a few remarkable exceptions (such as Laura Bassi, who received her doctorate in 1733 and was a physics professor at the Uni-versity of Bologna), and of course, the countless—and not so famous—numbers of women throughout the ages who studied and practiced science and engineering in whatever way they could. For the most part, however, women just weren’t welcome in these professions (Ambrose et al., 1997). Science’s parameters—established by Descartes and Francis Bacon—have been blamed by some scholars for alienating women. Descartes pronounced that ob-jectivity in science required a separation of logic from emotion (the “mind–body problem”). Bacon “declared that the purpose of science was for man to conquer and control nature for his [own] benefit” (Ambrose et al., 1997). Some writers hold that these tenets—and the scientific culture built upon them—have served to exclude women from the official scientific community in the past.
Engineering was even more exclusionary, due to its inception from a military model. In the 1400s, the word “engineering” (from the Latin word for “to contrive”) was used to describe the design of devices for warfare. Thus, an engineer was a man who employed skills to build machines of war. Even when engineering took on the qualifier “civil” to denote its nonmilitary applications, it remained a man’s domain. Although formal science and engineering education has long been the realm of men, even nonmilitary male students weren’t able to formally study engineering in the United States until 1824 when the Rensselaer School (now Rensselaer Polytech-nic Institute) was established (Grayson, 1977). The first doctorate ever earned in the United States wasn’t awarded until 1861, when Yale granted one to a man in science. This brings us back to the late nineteenth century, when women started to sneak in the back door of graduate programs and slowly but surely began to break down the barriers that had kept them out.
This is just a brief look at how women fit into the bigger picture of the doctor-ate in science and engineering. This background, however, gives us a basis on which to examine the current situation for women seeking their doctorates in those fields.
WHAT IT’S LIKE NOW
The National Science Foundation reports that women are currently earning the ma-jority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees overall, but in 1998 earned just 40% of the doctorates in science and only 13% of those in engineering (National Science Foundation, 2000). More than a century after Christine Ladd-Franklin was denied a doc-torate, these and other recent numbers make it clear: many women scientists and en-gineers face challenges throughout their careers simply because they are women. These challenges are compounded for women of color, lesbians, differently abled, and economically disadvantaged women. Most fields are male dominated at every level, and female mentors and role models are few. Doctoral work is certainly no exception, and it is only a first hurdle along the journey to a fulfilling career. For the last 20 years, the United States has faced a critical shortage of scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees in a number of fields. Even in areas where ab-solute numbers are not an issue, there are real equity concerns. The number of women working and studying in the scientific and technical fields is markedly lower than the number of men. To help all individuals reach their potential and to remain competitive into the next century, it is fundamental that the United States re-cruit from our entire population and that we support greater numbers of women in scientific and technical Ph.D. programs.
This may mean that you will be “the first.” You might be the first woman in your department to get a Ph.D. in a par-ticular discipline or the first woman in your unit when you choose your first job after graduate school. I was the first woman dean of engineering at a research uni-versity (and that was just in 1996!). The great news is that there are now four women deans of engineering at similar universities. Graduate school presents a number of challenges and potential obstacles. Some of these challenges are a result of the underrepresentation of women in engineering and the physical sciences. This book lays out a “map” of the graduate school experi-ence that will be invaluable to all graduate students and mentors in engineering and science disciplines. Also, it specifically addresses successful strategies for women. The book illuminates many important topics, including choosing an advisor, sur-vival skills in graduate school, and planning and preparing for your first profes-sional job after graduate school.
In the end, it’s most important that you have fun in graduate school. Try to give talks at international meetings and see other parts of the world. You should enjoy much of the graduate school experience; you can make it what you want it to be. Many jobs you will have later will not have the degree of flexibility and autonomy that you can experience in graduate school.
If you take responsibility for your grad-uate career and make your choices carefully using the advice in this book, graduate school will be one of the most enjoyable and interesting parts of your professional career. Enjoy!