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UF/IFAS study: Women earn nearly half the doctorates in ag sciences, but gaining limited stature

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Despite earning 44 percent of the doctorates in agricultural sciences, women hold just 23 percent of the tenure-track faculty positions at U.S. land-grant institutions, according to a new study led by a research team at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Although the 23 percent is nearly double the 12 percent reported in 2005, females hold very few administrative positions in agricultural academia, the study shows. They also hold fewer significant roles on the editorial boards of scholarly journals in their field, serve on relatively few agricultural industry boards and hold fewer significant positions in global peer groups.

“While progress has been made by both land-grant institutions and other agricultural science employers in moving women into leadership positions, we are still far from parity,” said Diane Rowland, a UF/IFAS agronomy professor who participated on the research team conducting the study. “Efforts should be made to understand the gap between Ph.D.-level training and the rate of progression to the faculty level and above.”

To attain the findings, Alyssa Cho, a recent Ph.D. student in the UF/IFAS agronomy department, and the team reviewed the websites of 50 land-grant institutions – one in each state — and the results are published in the current issue of the Agronomy Journal.

Women are getting plenty of graduate training at agricultural colleges, but it’s not translating to top-level positions, Rowland said. Of the 50 institutions surveyed, only four had a female department chair for crop and soil sciences. Among the colleges of agriculture, nine have female deans.

The study found that women represented 13 percent of the membership across crop peer-reviewed journal boards and membership was between 18 percent and 36 percent in the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America, the so-called “tri-society.”

The researchers studied not only how many women attained academic positions but also those who entered government or private-sector careers in the agricultural sciences. Among other things, they found that in the top agricultural companies, 11 percent of the leaders were women.

Rowland suggests the need for more studies on this issue in the future.

“These types of studies should be done regularly to follow the rate of progress,” she said. “Other survey studies are needed within individual institutions to identify the source of this gap between the graduate training of women in agricultural science and the promotion of women into leadership positions throughout the levels of the organization.”

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Caption: Women earn 44 percent of the doctorates in agricultural sciences, but hold just 23 percent of the tenure-track faculty positions, according to a new UF/IFAS study. Diane Rowland, a UF/IFAS agronomy professor, seen above, harvesting peanuts for demonstration at the UF Teaching Farm, participated in the study, which was led by one of her former doctoral students.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Diane Rowland, 352-273-4308, dlrowland@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.