Data collected by the National Science Foundation revealed that a total of 1,941 engineering doctorates were awarded in 2004. Of those, only 32--or 1.7 percent--were conferred on black women and 296--or 15 percent--went to white women.
Very few African American women currently teach in university science and engineering departments, and there are no black female tenured or tenure-track professors in computer science.
In 1987, NASA introduced programs at a number of historically black colleges and universities. These programs were designed to attract students interested in pursuing doctorates in the sciences. Two years ago, however, NASA began phasing out these programs. Additional grants are needed to support students in the sciences.
Family responsibilities often limit a woman's ability to meet the demands of an academic career in science. These demands can be strenuous, calling for students to devote more than 80 hours per week. Women engineers point to a lack of role models and the failure of educators to nurture and mentor young black women.
The good news is that affirmative action and black colleges and universities have attracted more young black women to the sciences. Some historically black colleges offer dual degree programs in liberal arts and engineering. Such programs have drawn students to the sciences via federally funded programs that enable the college to offer financial aid and scholarships.
For an additional perspective, check out this video:
Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients. Please see more of his blogs and view additional job postings on Nexxt.