Lead by women in graduate degrees doesn't extend to IT

Enrollments by women in IT programs declined last year

WASHINGTON -- Women are earning more master's degrees and doctorates than men, except in computer and information sciences, where men overwhelmingly dominate the field, according to a new study.

Women earned 60% of the master's degrees and 50.4% of the doctorates in the 2008-09 academic year overall. That was the first year that women earned the majority of the doctoral degrees, according to the Council of Graduate Schools, which conducts an annual survey of graduate school enrollments.

The council looked at computer and information sciences as a separate field for the first time in this report.

Of the 12,288 students counted as first-time graduate or doctoral students, or new enrollees, in computer information sciences, 5,266 were U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and 5,996 were temporary residents or students on visas. Another 891 were categorized as "unknown," as to whether they were U.S. residents or foreign students.

Of the first-time graduate or doctoral students in computer and information sciences, 9,021 were men and 3,249 were women.

The overall year-to-year growth in computer science enrollments was less than 1%. "Over the last year the growth that did occur in computer science was actually due to an increase in men. We saw a decline in the number of women in computer science in 2009," said Nathan Bell, director of research and policy analysis for the council.

Among first-time enrollments, the number of women in computer science programs declined 3.5% from 2008, while the number of men inched up 0.2%. Up until that point, the average annual rate of increase from 2004 for women had been 4.8%, versus 2.9% for men.

As a percentage of first-time graduate enrollments, men are also well represented in engineering, physical and earth sciences, and business, but women lead in most other areas, including health sciences at 79%, education (75%) and public administration (76%).

In mathematics and computer science, men accounted for 70% of first-time graduate enrollments.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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