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Persisting Patterns—Graduate Degrees and Gender Ratio in Sweden 1960-1990

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DOI: 10.4236/ce.2016.711163    1,017 Downloads   1,320 Views


This article addresses the ratio of women in Swedish academia on the graduate level, in particular the distribution of Ph.D. degrees among disciplines during the era of expansion in higher education. In the decades succeeding World War II, the Swedish educational system underwent pervasive changes, which among other things, were aimed at channeling a larger part of the population into higher education. This was a matter of national interest, as increased success in undergraduate studies would enhance the general level of competence and help promote Sweden as part of the cutting edge in research. In order to assess findings in previous research, this study examines the distribution in fields, field size, and periods of substantial growth in Ph.D. degrees, and their correlationswith changed gender ratios. Trends regarding women with Ph.D.s on an aggregated level show a gradual increase beginning in conjunction with the massive growth from 1969 to 1974. This expansion does not entail a boom in the ratio of women, albeit women increased exponentially over these years; during the 1960s women were still scarce. The gradual and steady increase is evident throughout the whole period, but the gender gap remains wide on an aggregated level; in 1990, one in four Ph.D. graduates was a woman. Examining this picture by field provides a more elaborate view. The crucial question is: If size matters, do crowded fields reveal greater gender imbalance than less crowded ones? After the upturn in the early 1970s, the relative gender gap in these disciplinary domains cannot exclusively be described as a successively, yet slowly, diminishing gap. The narrative of a linear process over time resulting in enhanced gender balance on the graduate level should be modified to reflect that trends indicate a fluctuating pattern where the low ratio of women is persistent rather than progressive.

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Winkvist, H. (2016) Persisting Patterns—Graduate Degrees and Gender Ratio in Sweden 1960-1990. Creative Education, 7, 1582-1603. doi: 10.4236/ce.2016.711163.

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