why women leave the pipeline?

Megan Brown mbrown at fred
Fri Jan 3 17:15:46 EST 1997

Sarah Boomer (sarai at u.washington.edu) wrote:
: So - here is a question that has been nagging me for a while.  Who out
: there has good stat's or opinons about what drives more women out of the
: "academic pipeline?"  A few years ago, I read that it was not family but
: just frustration and lack of interest with playing the game.  After all
: the discussions of sports analogies, baking, a different potential
: approaches men and women may take to careers in academics, I would really
: be curious to hear from people on this one... 

: Many people I know assume it is having families but I personally know more
: women who have left because they absolutely cannot find a niche (or job)
: in the system!  Drop me a line or post!

You know that I'm very interested in this same issue but in a broader
context--what causes scientists, both men and women, to leave the
academic pipeline. You also know my own
story, but here's one data point for your survey: I am dropping
out of the pipeline because I am married and my husband has a good job in
this city and would not follow me if I pursued a traditional pipeline job,
which necessitates a nationwide job search. I know several women where I
work who have much the same story: "I have to find some sort of job in
this city because my husband will not move." One of my friends was quite
happy a few months ago as she told me, "I've finally convinced my husband
to let me search for jobs in the states of Washington, Oregon, and
California." I hope she finds something. To be fair, this is a problem
that can go both ways. I have a male friend who is a postdoc who also has
to stay in this city because his wife has a good job here. I suspect that
most reasons why both men and women drop out of the pipeline are the same,
e.g. their CVs are not competitive enough, their personalities negate
their achievements, they are not geographically flexible, they are tired
of the granting game, etc. There are probably a few reasons that are
gender specific and it would be interesting to sort these out. For
example, I have heard that status and pay are more important to men in
their careers than women (a huge, huge generalization, I know). Since
academic positions pay poorly and are not the high-status jobs of
yesteryear, this may lead more men than women to leave the pipeline for
more lucrative opportunities (e.g. industry).


Megan Brown
mbrown at fred.fhcrc.org
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Seattle, Washington

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