Why do Women Leave Science and Engineering?
Over the years, I’ve read a number of articles and blog entries about why women are don’t enter the STEM disciplines. This one looks at why women leave. The article cited women’s main concerns regarded pay and lack of promotions, and noted that women exited fields at high rates when men made up a large percentage of the workforce.
I liked this article because the author actually looked at data about women leaving science and engineering, and compared it to women in non-STEM fields. Other articles I’ve read often cite statistics and maybe an anecdote or two about women in science. Anecdotes are emotionally potent and useful for illustration, but they are not data. I often wonder how much of the information is based on facts, and how much is based on the author’s beliefs and biases.
The authors concluded the women’s complaints were due to discrimination. I think that’s a bit of a jump, but I can definitely see how a woman feel isolated in a mostly male field. As a student, I don’t feel the lack of women as potently as others in the field. Bioengineering has the highest percentage of women (about 40%) of all engineering subspecialties. The department in which I do my research, Biopharmaceutical Sciences, the majority of students are women. In fact, the vast majority of my lab is female. I’ve gotten good support from both the men and women I work with. So far, I’ve been fortunate in that regard.