Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Graduate Education
 
Gender Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated April 2015)

Since 1970 at the master’s level and 1998 at the doctoral level, women have earned the majority of advanced degrees in the humanities, achieving a slightly larger share than for all fields combined.

Findings and Trends

  • The proportion of advanced humanities degrees awarded to women peaked in the mid-2000s and remained fairly stable into the next decade. As of 2013, women earned 60% of all master’s and professional-practice degrees in the humanities and 52% of the doctoral degrees in the field (Indicator II-13a and Indicator II-13b).
  • Although master’s degrees in the humanities were awarded somewhat more often to men than women in the mid-1960s, by 1970 gender parity had been achieved. Women subsequently went on to become the majority of humanities master’s degree recipients.
  • The percentage of humanities master’s degrees awarded to women was substantially higher than the percentage for all fields combined until the early 2000s. The gap nearly disappeared in 2010 and remained small through 2013.
  • In 2013, the education and science fields awarded a larger percentage of master’s degrees to women than the humanities. Business, engineering, and law awarded considerably smaller shares.
  • In the mid-1960s, the humanities, like all other academic disciplines, awarded only a small minority of doctoral degrees to women. Though they fared better in the humanities than in every field but education, women still received only 19% of humanities doctorates at that time. Throughout the 1970s, however, this percentage increased steadily, and by the late 1990s the majority of all new humanities doctoral degree recipients were women. Thereafter, doctoral degrees continued to be distributed evenly between men and women.
  • By the mid-2000s, the share of humanities doctorates awarded to women was slightly higher than the share among all fields together, and the two averages had stabilized along roughly parallel tracks.
  • From 1987 to 2013, six of the 10 humanities disciplines examined here saw an increase in the share of women earning master’s and professional-practice degrees (Indicator II-13c). In three of the remaining four disciplines (languages and literatures other than English, linguistics, and study of the arts) the share declined just one or two percentage points. Philosophy was the exception, as the share of women receiving degrees in the discipline fell 10 percentage points over the time period.
  • From 1987 to 2013, most of the disciplines examined here experienced an increase of 1–14 percentage points in the share of doctorate degrees earned by women, with religion showing the greatest gain (Indicator II-13d). Only the discipline of classical studies remained essentially the same.
  • As of 2013, four of the 10 humanities disciplines examined here were awarding less than half of their graduate degrees to women: classical studies, history, philosophy, and religion.
II-13a: Percentage of Master’s and Professional-Practice Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Academic Fields, 1967–2013

* For years 1967–1986, the National Science Foundation academic discipline category of “Arts and Music” is the basis for the count of “Fine and Performing Arts” degrees depicted here. This category includes the academic study of the arts (e.g., art history and film studies), which encompasses disciplines considered by the Humanities Indicators to be part of the humanities field. For years 1987–2013, the categorization of degrees by the finer-grained Classification of Instructional Programs makes possible the removal of such degrees from the count for “Fine Performing Arts” and their inclusion among humanities degrees.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online resources data system, WebCASPAR.

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II-13b: Percentage of Doctoral Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Academic Fields, 1967–2013

* For years 1967–1986, the National Science Foundation academic discipline category of “Arts and Music” is the basis for the count of “Fine and Performing Arts” degrees depicted here. This category includes the academic study of the arts (e.g., art history and film studies), which encompasses disciplines considered by the Humanities Indicators to be part of the humanities field. For years 1987–2013, the categorization of degrees by the finer-grained Classification of Instructional Programs makes possible the removal of such degrees from the count for “Fine Performing Arts” and their inclusion among humanities degrees.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR.

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II-13c: Percentage of Master’s and Professional-Practice Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Humanities Disciplines, 1987–2013
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s data system, WebCASPAR.
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II-13d: Percentage of Doctoral Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Humanities Disciplines, 1987–2013
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR.
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