Motivation and Takeaways
By collecting data on the proportion of women in various academic positions in the field of linguistics, we can see that the field of linguistics, like many other STEM fields, has a leaky pipeline problem. In general, as one goes up the traditional academic hierarchy (from undergraduate student to graduate student to faculty member), there is a decrease in the representation of women.
We collected faculty data from 50 universities in the United States with linguistics departments/programs. Faculty data was collected by going to individual institution websites and using people’s websites or CVs to annotate for perceived gender and subfield.
Subfields were determined using the research interest or personal biographies section of institutions’ “People” page. These were checked against individuals’ CVs, including lists of publications. Each individual person is coded for every subfield they do research in. This is to ensure that we are making relevant comparisons: a person who specializes in both acquisition and syntax, for example, is presumably going to conferences and advising students in both of these fields.
What is included in each group
- Applied: second-language or pedagogy related
- Experimental: Child Language Acquisition and Psycholinguistics
- Phonology & Phonetics: Phonology and Phonetics
- Sociolinguistics: Sociolinguistics
- Syntax & Semantics: Syntax, Semantics, Morphology
Student data reflect enrollment in the 2016-2017 academic year.
An email survey was sent to 50 institutions with linguistics programs in the United States. This survey asked department secretaries or advisors to provide us with a count of how many male and female graduate students are currently concentrating in certain areas. We also asked about the number of male and female undergraduates majoring in linguistics.
As we discussed in the disclaimers section, we are currently focused on differences in outcomes based on gender, not sex. However, at the time this survey was conducted, we were not careful about distinguishing between the two and so the survey itself referred to “male” and “female” students. We do not know if people responded to the question exactly as it was phrased or if they responded as if we meant gender, and we are unsure of the extent to which this error impacts our findings.
The survey is reproduced below:
- How many female/male undergraduate students are majoring in linguistics at your institution? [example answer: 20 female / 20 male]
- How many female/male graduate students are specializing in Semantics, Syntax, and/or Morphology?
- How many female/male graduate students are specializing in Phonology and/or Phonetics?
- How many female/male graduate students are specializing in Sociolinguistics?
- How many female/male graduate students are specializing in Language Acquisition?
- How many female/male graduate students are specializing in a subfield other than those listed above (psycho/neurolinguistics, applied linguistics, speech pathology, etc.) or in more than one of the above subfields?
NSF and NCES data
In addition, we gathered data from NSF about the number of Linguistics PhDs earned in the US per year by males and females since 1958. Data from the NCES provides information on the proportion of females earning BAs, MAs, and PhDs in linguistics in the US since the early ’90s. (Please note the different time periods available.)
Again, we are interested in gender, not sex. However, the NSF and NCES report data on sex differences. We are unable to estimate the extent to which this discrepancy impacts our conclusions.
LSA Executive Committee
Data on the makeup of the Executive Committee was gathered from the LSA website for each year since 2005.
You can download the data using the “Raw Data” tab in the display above.