A recent university study has found that California women have made significant strides in many areas, particularly in the field of education, where they are obtaining degrees at a higher rate than men. The report also highlights continuing inequities between women and men in areas such as employment rates and earning power.
Over the course of a year, researchers from Mount St. Mary’s College compiled data from different sources including the U.S. Census and other state agencies. The study is believed to be the first to attempt a comprehensive look at the status of California women based on factors ranging from poverty to mental and physical health, as noted in the Los Angeles Times.
The new report showed that California women are now more likely to earn college degrees than men, but that far fewer women are earning degrees in engineering, math or computer-related fields. According to the 2009 data in the report, the gap is greatest in computer and information sciences with only 14 percent of these degrees granted to women by California’s public colleges in comparison to 87 percent for men.
The achievement gap is also evident in the business world, where women represent just 3 percent of chief executive officers in California’s top public companies even though they own 30 percent of the state’s businesses. Only 24 percent of the state’s county supervisors are women and only 9 percent of cities with populations over 30,000 have female mayors.
Gender gaps aside, there have also been significant achievements for women in the state. The report shows that women have increased their survival rates for cancer and expanded their ownership of businesses in recent years. They also make up more than half the enrollment in California’s public colleges and graduate programs.
The report focuses on challenges facing California women in 10 different areas: demographics, poverty, education, media and technology, employment, leadership, physical health, mental health, violence and incarceration. Statistics from each section show that there have been recent achievements in some areas, but women still fall behind their male counterparts when it comes to proficiency in advanced science and math, leadership roles and earning power.
Andrea Cruz, a second-year biology major at UC Riverside, has observed the ongoing gender gap in her science courses. “It isn’t as apparent in my biology classes but in classes that require more analysis, such as physics, males are definitely more dominant [in numbers].”
A national report, “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” also found that there are continuing gender gaps in subjects such as advanced algebra, geometry, physics and chemistry. UCLA Education Professor Linda Sax, who studies gender differences in college students, said the reasons for the gaps include different preparation and course-taking patterns in high school and college. She also notes that there are societal perceptions that STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) are more suited for men. “You’re still less likely to find parents and teachers encouraging girls to pursue these fields,” Sax said in a recent Los Angeles Times article.