What Is Turning Off Women To Academia?

What Is Turning Off Women To Academia? May 26, 2012

The Guardian reports on high rates of disenchantment with academia among PhD students (and women PhD students in particular) by the time they are several years into their programs:

Men and women show radically different developments regarding their intended future careers. At the beginning of their studies, 72% of women express an intention to pursue careers as researchers, either in industry or academia. Among men, 61% express the same intention.

By the third year, the proportion of men planning careers in research had dropped from 61% to 59%. But for the women, the number had plummeted from 72% in the first year to 37% as they finish their studies.

If we tease apart those who want to work as researchers in industry from those who want to work as researchers in academia, the third year numbers are alarming: 12% of the women and 21% of the men see academia as their preferred choice.

This is not the number of PhD students who in fact do go to academia; it’s the number who want to. 88% of the women don’t even want academic careers, nor do 79% of the men! How can it be this bad? Why are universities such unattractive workplaces?

Reasons why.

Personally, I mostly hated graduate school and found it a soul sucking experience in many ways. If I was not so stubborn about finishing what I started, or did not have my identity so tightly wrapped up in being a philosopher, or did not love teaching so much, or was not able to ignore dire warnings about the state of the job market or the standards academia was going to judge me by, then I probably would have wanted out too. But I never did.

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