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Study confirms gender differences in production of doctoral theses

A study by the University of Barcelona has shown that, while the number of students completing a thesis is evening out between men and women, most thesis supervisors and evaluation board members are still men.

“The study looked at a sample of more than 1,000 doctoral theses extracted from the TESEO data base and completed over a 15-year period between 1990 and 2004”, Ángel Borrego, co-author of the study and a professor of Bibliotechonomy and Documentation at the University of Barcelona, told SINC.

Over this period, the researchers noted that the percentage of men obtaining their doctorate was higher than that among women (by 60%-40%), except in 2002, a year when these figures were reversed. However, as Borrego points out, this percentage change would have been more representative “if it had remained constant”.

A more marked imbalance can be found in the case of thesis supervisors (70% were men in 2004) and the evaluation board members (more than 70% of them are men, rising to 99% in the case of board chairpeople).

The study shows more than 80% of male supervisors supervised work carried out by men. Female doctorate students, meanwhile, tend to be supervised more often by a mixed team (10% of the total), as well as having a higher number of female supervisors.

Greatest imbalance is in engineering

The study looked at the five areas of university studies – social sciences and law, engineering, humanities, health sciences and experimental sciences. The authors of the study found the largest gulf in the case of engineering with only one-quarter of the students being female. Meanwhile, 82% of thesis supervisors in this field are men.

The researchers foresee the figures moving closer together over coming years. “According to recent data from the National Institute of Statistics, the majority of students now registered in almost all university areas are women,” says Borrego, who also points out that nowadays “females are performing better, and there is a larger number of graduates, which means it is likely there will be an increase of doctorates in all fields in future”.

This study involved certain difficulties, since the researchers had to decipher students’ names from initials, and by consulting various sources.

SINC Team | alfa
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