Thursday, October 26, 2023
Across academe, women are more likely to leave their faculty positions than men, and attrition is highest for women who have tenure or work in fields outside of science, technology, engineering, and math, according to a new study.
And even when men and women leave at the same rate, their reasons for doing so are gendered: Early-career women are more likely to leave due to issues with work-life balance, while women later in their careers are more likely to leave because of a hostile work environment. Men tend to cite professional reasons, such as a lack of resources or support.***
Women were more likely to leave their faculty roles than men at every career stage, and the gap grew wider at the top of the ladder. At the assistant-professor level, women were 6 percent more likely to leave than men. Among full professors, that figure was 19 percent.
Tenured faculty leaving at the highest rate is surprising, Raj said. But she speculated that women with tenure might be able to transition into other careers more easily than their less-experienced colleagues if the environment drives them out.
Women at less prestigious institutions were also more likely to quit.
Women most often cited issues with workplace climate as their reasons for leaving, such as harassment, dysfunctional department leadership, and feelings of not belonging. Men most often recounted professional reasons for leaving, such as difficulty obtaining funding or poor administrative support.
Previously, research has shown that one of the biggest drivers of inequity between women and men on the faculty is responsibilities at home. Additionally, Raj has observed gender gaps in sponsorship from more senior academics and in service work such as mentoring students.
Study, Science Advances, Gender and Retention Patterns Among US Faculty
Women remain underrepresented among faculty in nearly all academic fields. Using a census of 245,270 tenure-track and tenured professors at United States–based PhD-granting departments, we show that women leave academia overall at higher rates than men at every career age, in large part because of strongly gendered attrition at lower-prestige institutions, in non-STEM fields, and among tenured faculty. A large-scale survey of the same faculty indicates that the reasons faculty leave are gendered, even for institutions, fields, and career ages in which retention rates are not. Women are more likely than men to feel pushed from their jobs and less likely to feel pulled toward better opportunities, and women leave or consider leaving because of workplace climate more often than work-life balance. These results quantify the systemic nature of gendered faculty retention; contextualize its relationship with career age, institutional prestige, and field; and highlight the importance of understanding the gendered reasons for attrition rather than focusing on rates alone.